That a record 4.33 million children are now growing up in poverty here in the UK, one of the richest countries in the world should be a source of immense shame for successive Conservative governments. 

One in four children live in absolute poverty, rising to almost half in single-parent families and children from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds.  

Over a million children live in households that can’t meet their basic needs and in the last year alone, there's a doubling of the proportion of children living in families using foodbanks to get by.

Make no mistake, these things don’t happen by accident.

They are the result of Conservative political choices; crashing the economy and unleashing a cost-of-living crisis that has seen housing, food costs and energy bills soar; systematically ripping up the financial safety net for low-income families, and pursuing a failed austerity programme that over the past 14 years has devastated our public services and slashed funding for vital support for vulnerable children and their families. 

Ham & High: Catherine West says that the increase in child poverty is down to political choices made by the ConservativesCatherine West says that the increase in child poverty is down to political choices made by the Conservatives

Everywhere you look things are broken and the challenge facing the next Labour Government will be acute.  But last time we were in power Labour took a million children out of poverty and with a new cross-government child poverty strategy, we will fix this Tory failure yet again. 

That means tackling the root causes of poverty by growing the economy, creating more secure jobs, building the council housing we desperately need, and protecting renters.  

But it also means rebuilding our broken public services and providing practical help for parents and children, with free breakfast clubs in every primary school so no child starts the school day hungry. 

Despite the damage caused by austerity, you can see change already happening where Labour is in power.  Free school meals in every primary school thanks to Mayor Sadiq Khan means that 8,528 Haringey kids enjoy a hot, nutritious lunch every day, saving their families up to £500 a year and giving them the energy to learn and grow.  

One of my proudest moments as a council leader was introducing free school meals and I know the difference they make. Yet incredibly the Tory candidate for Mayor voted against them. 

No child should be growing up in our city unable to afford to eat.  Tackling child poverty needs to be a priority for anyone in power.  Under a Labour Government, it would be.

  • Catherine West is Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.