Child poverty figures that show 30% are classified as poor are an “obituary notice for compassionate conservatism”, Theresa May has been told.
Official statistics published today by the government showed four million children are now living in poverty.
In a blog for The Huffington Post UK, Labour MP Dan Jarvis and Professor Neena Modi, the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said “no inequality that burns brighter than the deep injustice that consigns children from deprived backgrounds to poorer health than their more affluent peers”.
Charities have also condemned the government for not tackling the problem.
And the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned that planned Tory cuts to benefits will lead child poverty to increase over the next few years.
However work and pensions secretary Damian Green said household incomes were now at a “record high” which showed the government was overseeing a “strong economy”.
Downing Street has also been under fire for having abolished its dedicated child poverty unit.
In their blog, Jarvis and Professor Modi said with Brexit approaching it was more important than ever for the government to focus on lifting children out of poverty.
“Today, at a moment of greater uncertainty for the UK than at any time since the great wars, ending poverty once again deserves unrelenting effort. Britain’s place in the world of tomorrow will be brighter from a focus on child poverty today,” they wrote.
“The link between child poverty and their life-long health and wellbeing must be broken. Putting this right should form part of a modern national mission. Sadly children don’t have a voice so we believe we have a responsibility to speak on their behalf. A national ambition to end child poverty should be a challenge that unites us all.”
Lib Dem education spokesman John Pugh said “in 2017 in Britain no child should have to face growing up like this. It is a tragic indictment of this government and we don’t need more words about what they will do. We need action”.
“This should be a priority. We must do more to improve the life chances of every child Poverty remains our most pernicious disease – and education is its greatest antidote,” he said. “This news is the equivalent to the obituary notice for compassionate conservatism.”
Justin Watson, Head of Oxfam’s UK Programme, said “urgent action is needed to help the vast number of people in Britain who are aren’t managing at all”.
And Matthew Reed, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said “any child living in poverty is one too many, but it is truly shocking that four million children are now affected by poverty”.
Agnes Norris Keiller, a Research Economist at the IFS said inequality and poverty actually remained “slightly lower” than before the financial crisis.
But he added: “Large planned benefit cuts mean child poverty is likely to rise over the next few years.”
In a statement, Green said the government “know there is more to do”.
“I’m committed to tackling disadvantage and these figures confirm that work is the best route out of poverty. Working parents help the whole family because of the dignity and security that comes from having a job.”