Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith (Image: Getty)

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Six former Conservative work and pension secretaries have urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift permanent.

The extra cash for benefit claimants was brought in as an emergency spending measure during the Covid crisis but is due to expire on October 11.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and five of his successors at the Department of Work and Pensions want to persuade the Treasury to stick with it even after restrictions are eased.

The plea has also been signed by Stephen Crabb, Damian Green, David Gauke, Esther McVey and Amber Rudd.

Sir Iain, the architect of UC, said: "One of the greatest, but unremarked, successes of the Government's response to Covid has been the benefit system.

"Universal Credit has held up well as a system for distributing money to those who need it, and the extra £20 added to has been essential in allowing people to live with dignity."

Universal Credit is due to be cut back by £20 a week in September
(Image: Andy Rain/EPA/REX/Shutterstock)

He warned that a failure to keep the uplift permanently in place would "damage living standards, health and opportunities" for families that needed it most.

The weekly top-up has spared hundreds of thousands of families from destitution during the pandemic.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey is believed to be want to keep the £20 uplift permanently – but discussions with the Treasury are ongoing.

Ministers told the Commons last week that there will be less need for the uplift after Covid restrictions are scrapped.

Tory ministers are for now storming ahead with a cut – despite admitting they've made no assessment of how many kids it will hurl into poverty.

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Dozens of Tory MPs who called for a temporary uplift for 6million claimants to be made permanent have had their pleas dismissed by the Treasury, the Mirror understands.

And Minister Will Quince last week confirmed his "expectation" is the boost, brought in due to Covid last April, "will end once our economy has opened".

He dismissed estimates that the cut, planned for September, will pull 400,000 people below the poverty line as "purely speculative".

He confirmed "no assessment has been made" by the government of how the change will affect child poverty in Scotland. And asked if he'd made a similar assessment across the UK, he said: "Any look at measures of that kind are purely speculative in terms of forecasting."

Mr Quince claimed: "Projecting the impact of an individual policy on poverty levels is complex and inherently speculative.

"It is very difficult to isolate the specific impact of one policy and determine its effect on how many people fall below the poverty threshold, which changes over time."

But Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds demanded the Tories "cancel that cut".

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald added: “Ploughing ahead with the scheduled cut to Universal Credit means ignoring the advice of three select committees…. over 100 Tory MPs, former Tory minister Lord Freud and over 50 anti-poverty charities.

“In the face of that, how can the UK government justify cutting £20 a week from millions of families already living on subsistence incomes?”