23/05/2014 13:02 BST | Updated 23/07/2014 06:59 BST

It's Time to Make the Government's Child Poverty Strategy Count

This week the government ended its consultation on its child poverty strategy for the next three years.

The consultation was a critical opportunity for the government to take meaningful steps to help end this growing crisis and make a significant difference to children's lives.

According to the latest official statistics, more than 3.5million children are living in poverty in the UK. The government has taken important steps to help children in poverty, including making free school meals available to all five to seven-year-olds. This alone means that 200,000 more children in poverty can get this crucial support. It has also promised additional support with childcare costs for families on Universal Credit. But much more needs to be done.

Despite these actions, the most recent projections from the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicate that child poverty is set to rise by 1.1million between 2011 and 2020. This will push the total to a staggering 4.6million children living in poverty by the end of the decade - the very year the government committed to end child poverty.

But however large the problem is, both national and local government have clear options that they can take to help tackle child poverty.

More needs to be done to stop parents from having to make the tough choices between giving their children the basics, which is keeping them in poverty. That's why, in the evidence we have submitted, we are calling for key measures that will help put an end to parents being forced to choose between putting food on the table or buying basic clothing for their children. The key measures the government needs to take are:

• Making sure that all families in poverty with children automatically get the Warm Home Discount. This key support would put an end to families choosing between heating and eating so no child would have to grow up in a cold home.

• Free school meals for all children in poverty would mean 500,000 more children living in poverty would be guaranteed at least one balanced meal a day, regardless of whether their parents work or not.

• Introduce a 'breathing space' scheme for families in problem debt, giving struggling families an extended period of protection from default charges, mounting interest, collection and enforcement action.

• Give 16 and 17-year-olds seeking safety from war, violence and persecution the same level of support as younger children seeking asylum. This is critical to putting an end to these vulnerable young people and their families being forced into extreme poverty and destitution.

• Make sure that effective Local Welfare Assistance schemes are in place across the country, so this last line of defence is secure for families facing financial crisis.

Child poverty is simply unacceptable and is damaging children's lives. Much more is needed to meet the government's commitment to end child poverty by 2020. By taking the actions we are calling for, the government would make a significant start towards achieving this goal and improving the lives of millions of children.