TEN thousand Scots face spending Christmas without access to vital funds due to ongoing welfare reforms, Scottish ministers have warned.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the roll-out of Universal Credit was putting families in a “horrible situation” in the run up to the festive season.

She said the in-built minimum wait of five weeks meant anyone making a claim this week will need to wait until January to receive the money.

But the UK Government insisted the claims were “simply untrue” – arguing advance payments are available for those in need.

It comes amid widespread criticism of the ongoing benefits shake-up, which has been blamed for forcing families onto the streets.

Ms Somerville said children risked going without gifts, warm homes and even food over the holiday period because of the changes.

She said: “Christmas is a time of additional expense for most people but it’s particularly hard for families with little money to begin with.

“It is therefore unacceptable that anyone making a claim for Universal Credit from last week will not see their money until after Christmas.

“This is an appalling situation for many across Scotland and why we have repeatedly called for a halt to the roll out of Universal Credit.

“The minimum five week wait for a first payment is just one of the many problems with Universal Credit, the roll out of which has led to sharp rises in the use of food banks and rent arrears.

“While the Department for Work and Pensions do offer advance payments, this needs to be paid back from future payments, locking families in to further debt at the start of a new year.”

She added: “I spoke to families and charities in the summer where people were telling me how, for example, a child didn’t want to go to school because they couldn’t afford to bring a birthday cake in – as that’s what everybody does in the class.

“There were no presents for that child’s birthday. Those same things will be happening in the run up to Christmas as well – families will be having to go without being able to give gifts, without being able to have enough food to get them through the Christmas and New Year period as well.

“That’s difficult enough for adults to come to terms with, but try explaining that to a child who’s going through that process.

“It just really does amplify, this time of year, how inhumane Universal Credit is.”

Ms Somerville insisted the Scottish Government “cannot change” the new system, but has limited powers to ease its delivery.

She said: “Since last year, our Universal Credit Scottish choices have given people the choice to receive their Universal Credit award twice monthly and have the housing costs paid directly to their landlord.

“We are spending significant amounts to mitigate the worst effects of UK Government cuts and support those on low incomes – £125 million this year alone – £20 million more than last year.”

It comes as the roll-out of Universal Credit – which merges six benefits into one payment – was completed across Scotland, with the last three job centres in Glasgow making the transition.

Earlier this week, charity bosses warned more than 6,600 children will be homeless this Christmas amid a “perfect storm” of welfare reforms, stagnating wages and rising household costs.

Councils have raised concerns tenants are falling behind in rent, while critics insist Universal Credit will leave 3.2 million people across the UK £2,500 a year worse off than the previous tax credits system.

A spokeswoman for the DWP branded Ms Somerville’s claims “simple untrue”.

She said: “No one has to wait for support if they need it and 100 per cent advance payments are available from day one.

“We are listening to concerns and recently announced a £4.5bn cash boost to Universal Credit.

“We are delivering flexibilities in Universal Credit payments on behalf of the Scottish Government and Scotland has the power to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”