Stripping families of £20-a-week in Universal Credit will plunge 420,000 children into poverty, researchers warn.
The Government announced a temporary hike in its flagship welfare payment last March to help hard-up households battle the coronavirus crisis.
The rise is worth £1,040 a year for six million households but costs the Treasury £6billion annually.
It is due to be axed at the end of next month.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure to extend the rise beyond April when he delivers his Budget on March 3.
Research by the House of Commons Library, seen by the Mirror, shows 420,000 kids would fall into relative poverty after housing costs are calculated if it is scrapped.
A briefing note issued by Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck and Feeding Britain director Andrew Forsey says the £20-a-week UC lift “has offered some protection against poverty and hunger for millions of people”.
It adds: “With the social and economic consequences of the pandemic likely to persist beyond March 2021, when this increase is due to cease, more people will be plunged into significant financial difficulties.”
They feared foodbank demand, which rocketed by 47% in the first six months of the pandemic, would soar if the temporary UC rise was withdrawn.
Mr Forsey said: “The findings of this analysis are as stark as they are frightening.
“A failure to extend the Universal Credit increase will plunge hundreds of thousands more children into the clutches of poverty and hunger.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck, a former Shadow Education Minister, said: “Poverty isn’t inevitable, it is a direct result of years of cruel and punitive policies from the Tories.
“Pre-pandemic, over four million children were living in poverty.
“Foodbanks regularly reporting that they are unable to meet demand shows that the moderate uplift in benefits has been nowhere near enough.
“The Government have options. If the political will is there, they can ensure no child goes hungry.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck’s local foodbank, the KEY Project in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, said demand had exploded by 310% compared with last year.
Business development and communities manager Jo Benham Brown added: “We are feeding those that have never before had to request benefits, let alone food charity.
“Families are struggling to manage on furlough with a 20% decrease to their income.
“Our worry is that these same people may well find that there are not jobs to return to and Universal Credit will be even more difficult to live on.
“If families already do not have enough money to purchase food for themselves then they will have little chance if their situation worsens still.”
The Chancellor is expected to use the Budget to say whether the UC rise will be extended.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said last month: “We know it runs out at the end of March, we know that households want to know what is coming next and he is going to come forward with more information shortly.”
Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said tonight: “Struggling families have already lost too much in this pandemic.
“Many have told us how much difference £20 a week makes to them and how worried they are about losing it.
“Government urgently needs to ensure children don’t fall between the gaps and this starts with maintaining the uplift.
“But there’s much more to do to really tackle child poverty – we need a proper plan that includes investing in child benefit and free school meals.”
Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield said the £20-a-week boost should be extended.
She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: “It’s had an important impact and that needs to continue.
“This isn’t the time for families to have that uncertainty or that drop in income.
“What we do know with very young children that are bearing some of the brunt of that increase in poverty, if you fall behind before you get to school you have very few chances to catch up during your school day.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “Britain is facing the worst economic crisis of any major economy because of this Government’s incompetence and indecision – struggling families and children must not shoulder the burden for this Government’s failure.
“Rishi Sunak must offer certainty to families now and secure our economy by cancelling his cut to Universal Credit, which will take £20 a week from millions of families.
“Labour would replace Universal Credit with a fair and compassionate system that offers a genuine safety net.”
A Government spokesman said previously: “We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families through the pandemic and beyond to ensure that nobody is left behind.
“That’s why we’ve targeted our support to those most in need by raising the living wage, spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs, boosting welfare support by billions and introducing the £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help children and families stay warm and well-fed during the coldest months.”