A single mum will be left struggling to care for her disabled children after universal credit is cut this week.

The woman, from Woodley, who wished to remain anonymous, will lose £86 a month from October 6 – just days after gas bills rose by as much as £153.

“Day to day life as a parent carer can be extremely challenging at the best of times, never mind the added stress of finances,” said the woman.

“I'm not after any pity, this is just a stark reality for my family. After the last 18 months, due to the pandemic, so many have suffered catastrophic financial difficulties.”

Read more: 15 million UK households face £139 energy bill price hike from October

According to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), she is one of 16,220 people in Reading impacted by the Government’s decision to end the Universal Credit “uplift”: a £20-a-week benefit increase introduced in March 2020 to help people weather the storm of the pandemic.

Reading West MP and Conservative cabinet minister Alok Sharma has defended the move, calling it part of a plan to “get people back to work,” but this is not an option for the single mum-of-two nor for the 42 per cent of claimants in the South East who are already employed.

The uplift was introduced as a temporary measure but with the cost of living going up, charities like the Child Poverty Action Group and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as well as six former Conservative work and pension secretaries have called for it to be maintained.

Read more: Reading East MP slams National Insurance hike as ‘wrong choice’

Matt Rodda, Labour MP for Reading West and shadow minister for work and pensions said: “The choice by the Government to end the uplift in Universal Credit will be a hammer blow to so many low income families in Reading and Woodley."

He said: “£20 may not seem like a lot to Conservative cabinet ministers but in some households in our town, it’s the difference between eating and putting on the heating.”

His criticisms were echoed by the leader of Reading Borough Council Cllr Jason Brock, who said: “The role of Government is to provide stability and security for the country and all its citizens, yet the Conservatives fail in this fundamental task and seem intent on producing yet more instability and uncertainty through both negligence and maladministration.

“There are families all over Reading who will be wondering why the Conservatives talk so much of ‘levelling up’ but show no concern for the welfare of ordinary people.”

Asked what Reading residents had to gain from the decision, Sharma, formerly a minister of state for the DWP, said: “A government that will support them to find work and earn more, while keeping taxes under control.”

“To extend the uplift, a further £6 billion would need to be raised through taxation – the equivalent to adding 1p of income tax in every pound and a 3p increase in fuel duty.

“Average earnings are now higher in real terms compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

He said the Government has maintained the Local Housing Allowance increase in cash terms – with over 1.5 million households gaining over £600 a year in additional support.