THE SNP has called on the Tory Government to scrap the “callous” benefit freeze that will cut a further £4.4 billion from social security payments – almost a billion more than planned.

The demand comes in the wake of research that shows the freeze will have negatively affected more than 27 million people across the UK and plunged 400,000 people into poverty by the end of its fourth and final year.

This year alone will see a huge number of social security claimants worse off by hundreds of pounds – particularly people with disabilities and families with children who could be left over £700 poorer due to the additional detrimental impact of the Tory two-child cap.

The benefit freeze, introduced by the Tories in 2016, has seen most working-age benefits remain at the same value as in 2015/16 while prices of goods and services have risen by 6.6% since then – a massive real-terms cut to people’s income.

If the freeze hadn’t been imposed, parents with one child would be better off by £255.20 this year and a disabled, lone parent on Universal Credit looking for work after April 2017 would be better off by £500.64.

Ending the freeze one year early would benefit 2.1m people in Scotland, with 800,000 benefiting from £100 or more this year, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said.

Neil Gray MP, SNP work and pensions spokesperson, said the freeze should be scrapped with benefits increased in line with inflation.

“By the end of its final year, the freeze will have affected more than 27m people – five times the population of Scotland,” he pointed out. “Families with children and people with disabilities will be particularly worse off due to the two-child cap and cuts to disabled benefits, two policies also implemented by the Tories.

“Targeting austerity at the most disadvantaged and pursuing a policy that will plunge thousands into poverty is nothing short of a moral outrage, and this Tory Government should hang its head in shame,” he said.

“The benefits freeze is a political choice, not a necessity, and the SNP opposed the policy from the beginning. The UK Government must end this cruel approach and lift the freeze immediately.”

The new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) predicts an increasing number of families will be “pulled into poverty” if the freeze on tax credits and working-age benefits continues.

The group said the freeze, which enters its final year today, was “unjustifiable”.

“In the midst of huge political and economic uncertainty, families who have already seen their support eroded know that the coming year will be hard to get through,” said JRF chief executive Campbell Robb.

“It’s not right that more parents will face impossible situations, trying to decide which essential bills to pay and what they can cut back on to make it through each week.

“Around 4.1m children are now locked in poverty, nearly three quarters of whom are in a working household.

“The risks of economic uncertainty should not be allowed to disproportionally affect those with no leeway in their finances. Ending the freeze is the right thing to do and would have helped working families stay afloat.

“As the Government approaches its spending review, it needs to look at how best to protect people from harm who are otherwise left without an anchor in uncertain times.”

A Government spokesperson said under the last government, the welfare budget “increased by 65% in real terms”, making it “unsustainable”.

“That, combined with the fiscal pressure we faced in 2010, made it inevitable that we had to take action, but we have made it clear that we have no intention of repeating the current freeze.

“When it is over, increases in benefits will resume in line with CPI in the normal way.”