This letter was published in the Guardian on 7 December 2015.
Ten years ago, on his first day as party leader, David Cameron vowed that “the test for our policies will not be how they affect the better off, but how they help the worst-off in our country”.
As professionals working with families and academic experts, we urge the prime minister to remember these words and put a stop to plans to give up on targets to end child poverty. It is vital that the government continues to report to parliament on how many children live in poor families and to act to reduce that number.
We know through our work on the ground and through a wealth of academic evidence that the 3.7 million children growing up in poverty miss out on the things most children take for granted, have poorer health outcomes, do less well at school and earn less as adults. Child poverty costs us £29bn a year in terms of extra pressure on public services and wasted economic potential.
We also know from a recent government consultation that there is near universal support from academics, thinktanks, local authorities, voluntary sector organisations, frontline services and others for keeping income poverty at the heart of poverty measurement.
New public polling shows that low income is overwhelmingly accepted (88%) by the public as being important for measuring UK child poverty.
Without measuring how many children are in poverty, the government cannot draw up a credible action plan to end child poverty and improve life chances – one that enjoys the confidence of professionals, academics and the public – nor be in a position to assess whether its policies are hurting or working.
Ending child poverty starts with counting it.
Alison Garnham Chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group
Prof Sheila Hollins Chair, British Medical Association Board of Science
Prof Neena Modi President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Prof Michael Marmot University College London Institute of Health Equity
Russell Hobby General secretary, National Association of Head Teachers
Dr Kitty Stewart Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics
Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers
Prof Jonathan Bradshaw Department of social policy and social work, University of York
Prof Cathy Warwick Chief executive, Royal College of Midwives
Maris Stratulis England manager, British Association of Social Workers
Chris Keates General secretary, NASUWT
Janet Davies Chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing