MORE than 20,000 Scottish children in some of the country's most vulnerable families will be "severely" affected by the introduction of a lower benefits cap, according to a new study.

Researchers have found that 7,000 families in Scotland will be impacted when the benefits cap is lowered by £6,000 next week prompting fears that the steep cut will push some to the bring of homelessness.

Independent body the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), which carried out the analysis, said the plan - that will see households lose out on up to £115 per week - "undermines the UK Government's commitment to make society fairer".

Read more: College cash crisis to be raised at Holyrood

Theresa May's government insists that the reform is necessary to ensure that claimants cannot earn more being out of work than in a job.

But charities and opposition parties urged the Prime Minister to rethink the policy.

CIH Scotland executive director Annie Mauger warned that the consequences of cutting income for so many families were "extremely worrying".

She said: "[Our research] shows that the reduction in total benefits is going to hit some of the most vulnerable families of all sizes across Scotland and the UK as a whole."

“These families will lose out when the cap comes into effect from November 7. In many cases, they will immediately face a substantial gap between their rent and the help they receive to pay for their housing.

“Worryingly, our analysis shows many families could be one redundancy or a period of ill health away from being in this situation.

“We are seriously concerned that this could have a severe impact on these families, make housing in large sections of the country unaffordable and risk worsening what is already a growing homelessness problem.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, called on ministers to rethink the policy and to ensure people living in temporary accommodation are exempt from the benefits cap.

He said: "Many of the families in Scotland affected by the benefits cap will be living in temporary accommodation while they wait for a permanent home. They have already been through the trauma of homelessness.

Read more: College cash crisis to be raised at Holyrood

"This cap will impact on the most vulnerable households and potentially puts Scotland’s world-renowned homelessness provision under greater stress."

Under the new rate, the highest amount a household can receive in benefits will be cut from £26,000 to £20,000.

The rate will be higher in London, where it will also fall from £26,000 to £23,000.

Overall, the research found 6,733 families, with 20,000 children, claiming housing benefit in Scotland will be affected. Across the UK, that figure is almost 120,000 families and more than 300,000 children.

The Liberal Democrats accused Theresa May of pursuing the reform to curry political favour with Conservative colleagues.

Cathy Bakewell, the party's work and pensions spokeswoman, said that the policy has "nothing to do with controlling benefit spending and everything to do with pleasing the right-wing of the Conservative Party".

"Sadly it’s 300,000 children who will lose out as their family incomes are cut," she said. "If the Government is serious about supporting life chances of everyone in our country then plunging children further into poverty seems a funny way to go about it."

The Department for Work and Pensions claims that the introduction of a benefits cap in 2013 encouraged people to move off benefits and into jobs.

George Osborne announced the new lower cap this time last year, fulfilling a pledge in his party's general election manifesto.

At the time, he said: "It is not fair that people out of work can earn more than people in work so we are going to cut the benefit cap, as we said in our manifesto, to £23,000 in London - it will be lower in the rest of the country.

"We have got to have a welfare system that is fair to those who need it but also fair to those who pay for it."

The CIH research also found that around 6,000 families in Wales will be affected, 12,000 in the West Midlands and the East of England, 13,000 in the North West, 18,000 in London and 17,500 in the South East.

Read more: College cash crisis to be raised at Holyrood

CIH Scotland executive director Annie Mauger said: “This is a measure which seriously risks undermining the UK Government’s commitment to make society fairer for families and we suggest that they look at this urgently.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said it did not recognise the CIH figures which it said did not take into account those who will move into work.

“We are committed to helping people who are able to work into jobs and the benefit cap provides a clear incentive to move into employment for those who can," he said.

"Anyone eligible for working tax credits, carers allowance, and most disability benefits are exempt from the cap.

“The benefit cap restores fairness to the system and the new limit will ensure the amount people on out-work-benefits can claim better reflects the circumstances of many working families in the country. Even with the new cap, households can still receive benefits up to the equivalent salary of £25,000, or £29,000 in London.”

The department says it estimates that around 88,000 households will be impacted by the new benefit cap, because more people are moving into work and the number claiming out-of-work benefits is falling.