A DECISION to axe a £20-per-week boost to Universal Credit will have “deep and devastating consequences” for thousands of families across East Renfrewshire, a new report states.

The temporary £20 increase to payments was introduced in response to the Covid pandemic but will end on October 6.

Analysis by experts at poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows the cuts will affect 4,690 working age families in East Renfrewshire.

Kirsten Oswald, the area’s MP, has also warned it could take £5million out of East Renfrewshire’s economy each year.

She has urged the UK Government to reconsider its decision in light of the dire warning issued by the poverty charity.

Ms Oswald told the Barrhead News: “These figures must be a wake-up call for the UK Government to halt its plan to cut the income of families while the economy is struggling in the aftermath of the global pandemic.

“If the Tories push ahead with this disastrous policy, it will hammer thousands of families here in East Renfrewshire and expose their promise of ‘levelling up’ as no more than empty rhetoric from a government that is out of touch with ordinary people.”

Chris Birt, deputy director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, described the decision to remove the £20 Universal Credit uplift as “the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since the Second World War.”

He added: “Cutting Universal Credit will have deep and devastating consequences for a huge number of families with children.

“Child poverty was already rising before Covid-19. It is a scandal that the UK Government’s strategy for economic recovery is to plunge families who are already struggling into deeper poverty and debt.”

However, a spokesman for the UK Government defended the move and suggested the Scottish Government could top up existing benefits for those who will lose the £20 payment.

He said: “The temporary uplift to Universal Credit was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic – and it has done so.

“Universal Credit will continue to provide a vital safety net and, with record vacancies available, alongside the successful vaccination rollout, it is right that we now focus on our Plan for Jobs, helping claimants to increase their earnings by boosting their skills and getting into work, progressing in work or increasing their hours.

“The Scottish Parliament has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.”