The introduction of Universal Credit (UC) across the UK by the Tory government has been nothing less than a shambles and Theresa May must act urgently to halt its further roll-out in our communities.

UK Tory ministers laud UC as their flagship welfare policy; supposedly intended to save money by simplifying the social security system in merging six existing benefits – Housing Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and income-based JSA and ESA – into a single monthly payment.

However, every day we see more evidence that flaws in the UC system are unnecessarily pushing already struggling and impoverished families further into hardship.

As if that wasn’t reason enough to prompt a re-think, local authorities are having to spend millions of pounds mitigating the impact of UC at a time when council budgets are under serious strain due to Tory-imposed budget cuts.

In the areas of Scotland where UC has been introduced there have been reports from local MPs of a catalogue of failures – with vulnerable claimants being forced into debt whilst waiting over six weeks for a first payment, families relying on foodbanks to survive and others threatened with homelessness due to rent arrears.

In East Dunbartonshire – one of the areas where UC has been piloted – it has been revealed that 92 per cent of tenants on UC are in rent arrears.

In the Highlands and East Lothian local authorities there have been inundated with desperate requests for crisis grants because UC claimants do not have the means to pay their rent.

UC is due to be rolled-out in West Dunbartonshire next year and I know from speaking with constituents and local welfare advice agencies that there is serious concern about the negative impact it will have. This will of course be made worse due to the imminent closure of Alexandria job centre – yet another example of the Tories caring little for the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities.

West Dunbartonshire Council’s SNP group has also called for the UK government to pause the implementation of UC and work to address the flaws in the system, with councillors highlighting concerns about the adverse impact UC is expected to have on local residents and council services.

In the House of Commons I joined 298 other MPs in voting to halt the further roll-out of UC. However, Tory MPs shamefully dodged the debate as Theresa May continues to stubbornly refuse to listen to the evidence of real hardship being caused by UC.

The Universal Credit system clearly needs looked at again and the SNP will continue pressing UK Ministers to take urgent action to prevent more families being needlessly driven into financial crisis.