Charities and anti-poverty campaigners want a temporary rise in Universal credit payments to be made permanent.

The benefit was increased by £21 a week to help families during the pandemic but is due to stop at the end of March next year.

Now group including Poverty Alliance, Shelter, and Barnardos, led by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have called on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to extend the payments.

More than 50 organisations signed the letter urging the Government to keep the support in place.

It states: “We welcomed the swift action you took at the start of the pandemic to implement this much needed investment. Falling incomes and rising costs throughout the pandemic have put families under immense financial pressure, but the £20 uplift has been a lifeline that has enabled many of them to keep their heads above water and has stopped us seeing a marked surge in poverty levels.2

The letter states that overnight 16 million people would see their income reduced and the good work will be undone.

The groups add: “We are therefore urging you to make the uplift permanent and stop families being cut adrift whilst they need help to stay afloat.”

The coalition said there is huge support for the lifeline payments which is helping many families though turbulent times.

Helen Barnard, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “Today’s letter shows the overwhelming support that exists for this lifeline which is playing a critical role in helping many families keep their heads above water in extremely turbulent times. Building on existing cross-party support in Parliament, we are coming together to urge ministers not to cut social security at precisely the moment our country needs it most.

“It’s only right to prioritise those hardest hit, pulling families worst affected by the pandemic back from the brink.”