Stripping the £20 uplift to universal credit will disproportionately impact single mothers, the government has been warned ahead of the chancellor’s final decision on the matter.
Rishi Sunak rolled out the £20 weekly increase to universal credit during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic - a period that also saw record numbers of people apply for the financial support mechanism.
However, anti-poverty groups have repeatedly warned that if the uplift is scrapped, hundreds of thousands of people will be plunged below the poverty line - with separate studies from the Legatum Institute and the Fabian society both predicting between 690,000 and 760,000 people will fall into poverty if the top up is removed.
Freedom of information data obtained by Save the Children has revealed women account for almost 90 per cent of the more than 1 million single parents claiming the benefit.
More than 962,000 single mothers are universal credit claimants, according to the data - with 45 per cent of them currently in work.
Single mothers make up 3.5 per cent of the total UK population according to ONS data - however as a group they make up around 16 per cent of universal credit claimants.
Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty at Save the Children, said: “Single mothers have been particularly hard hit by this crisis and taking money away from them at this time will leave them to struggle even more.
“Even with the additional £20 per week in universal credit, mothers tell us they’re having to go without meals or electricity just to make sure their children have food to eat.
“One mum told us she is burning candles because she cannot afford to pay for electricity. This should not be happening in 2021.”
In the run-up to the Budget the chancellor has declined to comment on whether he would extend the uplift, which is due to come to a close in April.
However he is expected to extend the measure in his budget for a further six months amid pressure from backbenchers - particularly conservatives in newly-won northern seats where constituents could be particularly hard hit.
Ms Lyon added: “Providing support for only another six months just won’t cut it. We know the worst of the economic impact from coronavirus is yet to be felt, so we urge the UK government to use the Budget to extend the uplift to universal credit for at least a year.
“Taking this lifeline away could be the difference between children having enough food to eat or having to go without meals.”