Two single mums have described the devastating impact a £20-a-week Universal Credit cut will have on their lives.
Some six million families are due to be stripped of the vital extra cash at the end of March.
They spoke out as six Tory rebels last night joined Labour MPs to back extending the £80-a-month increase.
Labour used a parliamentary Opposition Day debate to try to shame the Conservatives into preserving the temporary lift.
Boris Johnson ordered his MPs to abstain but half a dozen sided with Keir Starmer ’s party.
The Commons supported the symbolic vote by 278 to 0 although it is not binding.
But it piles pressure on the PM to perform another U-turn.
On a visit to Oxfordshire yesterday, Mr Johnson claimed his Government wanted to ensure “people don’t suffer as a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic”.
He insisted: “What we have said is we will put our arms around the whole country throughout the pandemic.
“We have already done £280billion of support and we will keep all measures under review.”
Here, two women who face bearing the brunt of the cut reveal what difference the £20 makes...
Rebecca, 35, from the east of England
Rebecca is a single mum who works part time from home.
She said the additional £80 per month has been the difference between being able to put the heating on and buy essentials for her eight-year-old daughter Skye.
She has been on Universal Credit since 2019 and described the first year, when she struggled to put food on the table, as “brutal”.
“The £20 per week may not seem like much to people but it is huge - it’s the difference between being able to buy food and not buy food,” said Rebecca, a parent support co-ordinator for GlobalARRK, which supports parents in international custody disputes.
“It’s the difference between being able to buy shoes when my daughter runs out, being able to put the light on and the heating on.
“When you’re used to being poor you know how to budget, and that extra £20 a week feeds us.
“My message to Boris Johnson would be this - when you’re squabbling in the Commons over £1,000 per year, you’re not talking about money, you’re talking about food on children’s tables, clothes on their backs.
“You’re talking about lights and heating being on in the winter. It’s actually human lives - tiny little lives.
“There’s a stigma in the UK that someone on benefits is useless. But it is genuinely incredibly hard and people need to realise that.”
Caroline, 47, from Northern Ireland
Single mum Caroline Rice, a child minder from County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, said Boris Johnson needs to meet people like her to realise the importance of £20 a week.
The 47-year-old, who has a nine-year-old daughter, said: “That money is the difference between treading water and drowning.
“It’s about £100 a month and is the difference between being able to heat the home and not heat it.
“If they take that money away - I have no savings - I don’t know what we’ll do. I’m just getting by day to day.
“Boris Johnson needs to listen to the people who are actually living this life. We’re working, I’m working - I’ve always worked.
“It pays to work but it all depends on your sector, and your family and personal circumstances.
“I cannot go out and work a 60 hour week because I have a young child at home to care for and look after.
“He (Johnson) can do that as he can afford a child minder. He needs to meet us and listen to us to find out what a difference £20 a week makes.
“The mental stress of constantly checking your account to make sure you have enough to pay for bills and food is huge.
“I do not drink or smoke, I have gone without food so my daughter can eat and we haven’t been on holiday in four years.
“I am careful with money and budget well and have worked all my life. I’ve only been on benefits since having a child because the sector I work in is low paid and undervalued.
“For the government to come in and take that money away is going to make life extremely hard.”