THE NUMBER of Scottish households hit by the controversial benefit cap has soared by 76 per cent during the lockdown.

The benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of benefits that working-age people can receive and is set at different levels by the UK Government, depending in whether you live alone or not.

The SNP has warned that the benefit cap is "doing real damage to people" - and warned that powers being controlled by Westminster means Scotland is "fighting poverty with one hand tied behind our back".

During the early stages the Covid-19 pandemic in April, Scottish households claiming Universal Credit surged from the benchmark of 20,000 a month to more than 110,000.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: Universal Credit claims surge by 90,000 amid pandemic

Shelter Scotland has warned that the benefit cap is forcing families into hardship.

The statistics show that as of May this year, 6,034 households in Scotland were hit by the benefit cap – a jump from 3,428 in February 2020 and an increase of 76 per cent.

Of Scottish households impacted by the cap, 2,157 or more than one third, saw their need assessed benefits docks by £50 or more per week while 743 families lost £100 or more per week.

Two thirds of households impacted by the cap were single-parent families.

Director of Shelter Scotland, Alison Watson, said: “With thousands of people losing work as a result of the pandemic, leaders across the UK should be focused on protecting families’ incomes and keeping them in their homes.

“But instead, the benefit cap is forcing families into poverty and hardship at the worst possible time.

“By increasing funding for crisis grants, the Scottish Government has gone some way to plug the gap in household budgets, but this problem needs to be tackled at source. The UK Government must scrap the cap.”

In Aberdeen, households impacted by the benefits cap has increased by 71 per cent, in Edinburgh those affected has risen by 62 per cent while the number of families facing the benefits cap in Glasgow has soared by 78 per cent since the start of the lockdown.

READ MORE: Outer Hebrides set for £50m economic hit as Universal Credit claimants double

Shona Robison, chair of the SNP's social justice commission, said: "The SNP has long called for an end to the benefit cap, which hits families with children hardest. If the Tories were really serious about improving people's lives they would scrap this harmful policy now.

"The Tories need to look at the overwhelming evidence that their policies are doing real damage to people - they cannot continue forcing the most disadvantaged in our society to bear the brunt of austerity."

She added: "In government, the SNP has done everything it can to support those hit by the benefit cap - but as long as the key levers remain in the hands of Westminster, we are fighting poverty with one hand tied behind our backs.

"After a decade of cuts, and a global pandemic, it is now more critical than ever that the UK government starts taking poverty seriously and rebuilds the social security net it spent years systematically destroying."

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The benefit cap, up to the equivalent salary of £24,000 in Scotland, ensures fairness for hard-working taxpaying households and a strong work incentive, whilst providing a much needed safety net of support. 

“We remain committed to helping the most vulnerable in society, which is why we currently spend more than £95 billion a year on the benefits system, supporting more than seven million people.”