The Tories' two-child limit on benefits has hit almost a million children across the UK.

Some 243,270 households had their benefits cut by the cruel policy in the three years since it launched in 2017.

Overall those households contain 911,190 children.

More than half the households (57%) are in work - and 41% of them are single parents, annual official statistics show today.

The damning figures come after years of pleas by MPs, charities and academics to axe the austerity cut.

Launched by ex-Chancellor George Osborne, the limit bars parents from claiming Child Tax Credits or Universal Credit for "third or subsequent" children born after 6 April 2017.

Ministers had planned to extend the cut, worth up to £2,780 per child, to children born before 2017 as well but decided not to after an outcry.

Despite the climbdown, today's figures show the vast scale of the policy in only three years.

There are exemptions for some children, such as adopted kids or those born of rape.

But this "rape clause" prompted fury among campaigners - as women affected must declare their attack in a submission to the DWP.

The new figures show the 'rape clause' was invoked 900 times in the first three years of the policy.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has campaigned against the 'rape clause', said the figures were "devastating".

She added: "Approaching one million children are now suffering financial hardship, the majority of them in families where their parents are working.

“This is a horrific legacy for any government. It’s time for Boris Johnson to wake up to this reality, signal a change of direction on welfare and scrap this pernicious Tory policy.

“Most shocking of all, 900 women have been forced to go through the process of claiming for an exception due to a non-consensual conception.

"Every single one of these women has been put in a position where they’ve had to fill in a form to prove their child was conceived as a result of rape or coercion, just to make ends meet."

Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: "These figures show just how many families the two child limit is pushing into further hardship at a difficult time.

"No-one could have been expected to foresee a crisis like Covid-19 when making decisions about the size of their family.

"It's unfair to punish them for that now.

"The two child limit is effectively an 18-year sanction on those decisions and is a major driver of child poverty.

"Labour would scrap it entirely as part of building a new social security system which provides a decent standard of living for all."

Of the households affected, 59% contained three children, 26% had four children and 15% had five or more children.

Only 11,100 households were given an exemption.