TORY ministers have rejected a joint plea from the UK’s devolved parliaments to reverse cuts to “lifeline” welfare payments.

Boris Johnson’s administration confirmed it will plough ahead with plans to scrap a £20 per week increase to Universal Credit, a measure introduced during the pandemic to help struggling families.

Politicians, including from the Conservative benches, and charities have warned that the move will plunge hundreds of thousands of people into poverty.

The decrease has been branded the biggest welfare cut since the Second World War.

Parliamentarians from Holyrood, the Senedd, Stormont and Westminster had united to demand a rethink, but Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has confirmed the £20 uplift will be scrapped on October 6 as planned.

In response to a letter from the coalition of UK politicians, she said: “Now the economy has reopened it is right that the Government should focus on supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress in their careers. Our ambition is to support two million people move into and progress in work through our comprehensive £33 billion Plan for Jobs.”

The Tory minister had been sent a letter in July which was signed by Neil Gray MSP, convener of Holyrood’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee, Stephen Timms MP, chair of Westminster’s Work and Pensions Select Committee, Paula Bradley MLA, chair of Stormont’s Committee for Communities, and Jenny Rathbone MS, chair of the Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice Committee.

It warned the proposals would risk pushing more people into poverty after it was revealed the number of people receiving Universal Credit had soared from three million in March 2020 to six million in January 2021.

The cuts mean payments will decrease to £257.33 a month for single claimants aged under 25, or £324.84 a month for single claimants over 25.

READ MORE: Anti-poverty groups welcome call to make Universal Credit rise permanent

The National: Neil Gray - UK Parliament official portraits 2017.

Gray (above) said: “The response from the Secretary of State failed to engage on the issues we raised and recognise the large proportion of Universal Credit recipients who are already in work.

“If this cut is to go ahead it would be the single biggest social security cut since the second world war as we are still assessing the impact the pandemic has had on poverty levels for those in and out of work.

“UK Ministers must reflect on the damage this cut will do, particularly to those groups already suffering the most from the pandemic such – children, disabled people, single parents and people from BAME communities – and keep this key support in place.”

Timms added: “The £20 cut will plunge hundreds of thousands, including children, into poverty. Instead, the Government should extend the lifeline beyond September.

"The Secretary of State’s dismissive response to our letter suggests that the Government is still in denial about the impact of ending the increase.

“The Government’s new employment support schemes are welcome, but 40 per cent of Universal Credit claimants are already in work. The cut will hit many working families hard. Benefit rates, in real terms, will fall to their lowest level in over 30 years. The Government must change course to prevent severe hardship for many thousands of families.”

Coffee is due to hear from people who rely on Universal Credit during the first oral evidence sessions after Westminster’s summer recess on September 8.

Last month, Boris Johnson told benefits claimants they should count on their own “efforts” to boost their income rather than relying on welfare.

The Prime Minister made the suggestion as he defended cuts to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit payments.

He said: said: “My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets, rather than welfare.

“The key focus for this government is on making sure that we come out of Covid strongly, with a jobs-led recovery, and I’m very pleased to see the way the unemployment numbers, the unemployment rate has been falling, employment has been rising, but also wages have been rising.”