Out of work families will be left with just over half the income the public believes they need for an acceptable standard of living when the Universal Credit (UC) uplift is removed, research shows.
The Government is planning to phase out the £20 a week increase, introduced as a temporary measure during the coronavirus pandemic, from the end of September.
Conservative MPs, charities and think tanks have warned this will hit the poorest families the hardest and have called for it to remain in place.
The Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University carried out research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on what the public think everyone needs for an acceptable standard of living – the Minimum Income Standard (MIS).
Researchers found that the looming cut would reduce the value of out-of-work benefits to their lowest recorded levels compared to what the public thinks is an acceptable income.
They found that an out of work couple with two children aged three and seven will receive 55% of the MIS in benefits after the cut, while single out of work adults without children will receive around a third of the MIS.
The research also shows that the national living wage is not enough for single adults to reach the MIS.
A single parent with two children working full-time and earning the national living wage is £46 a week short of the MIS.
A single adult without children needs to earn £20,400 a year to reach MIS, but they would only earn £17,400 if working full-time on the national living wage.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling for the UC uplift to be retained, and extended to people receiving legacy benefits who have not been eligible.
Policy and partnerships manager Iain Porter said: “It is deeply concerning that millions of households across our country are having to live on incomes that fall so far short of what the public thinks is needed for a minimum standard of living.
“Social security should be strong enough for all of us when we need a lifeline, but cuts and freezes in recent years have left it to wear thin and threadbare.
“We urgently need to restore public confidence by investing in adequate social security support for families when they need it.
“It would be a terrible mistake for ministers to instead weaken Universal Credit further by going ahead with the planned £20-a-week cut this October, leaving millions of families unable to meet their needs.”
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “Under this Government millions of children are already living in poverty; this cut will only make things harder.
“It is time the Government saw sense, backed struggling families and cancelled their cut to Universal Credit.”
A Government spokesman said: “The temporary Universal Credit uplift was brought in to support those with the lowest incomes during the pandemic.
“Now that restrictions are ending it is right that the Government should focus its support – through our multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs – to help people learn new skills to progress in their career, increase their hours or find new work.”