After the election, what now for child poverty? The new Government has a mountain to climb.

Currently, 3.7m children live in poverty in the UK and the number looks set to rise steeply again.

Poverty has a huge impact on the life chances of children and young people. Starting from the cradle onwards, poorer children can expect to typically lag up to 15 months behind their richer peers in their vocabulary.

Poorer children attain fewer good GCSEs and are more likely to be unemployed on leaving education.

Once unemployed, they face permanent “wage scarring”, earning less than their peers later in life.

Barnardo’s works with the families who struggle daily at the coal face of the UK’s stubborn poverty problem.

The recent recession, followed closely by a rise in the cost of living, hit the poorest particularly hard.

Meanwhile, young people experienced double the unemployment rate of other workers.

Worryingly, the Conservatives have committed to cutting £12bn of the welfare bill. It is unclear exactly where the money will come from, but they have already pledged to restrict housing and out-of-work benefits for young people.

There are some crucial steps the new Government can take to improve the poorest children’s life chances.

Firstly, they should guarantee that welfare cuts will not fall on the most vulnerable – starting with a complete review of the financially punishing sanctions system. The Government must make sure every child has the same life chances by protecting children’s centre funding, increasing support for disadvantaged three and four-year-olds, and assisting poor pupils through schemes like the pupil premium and free school meals.

Marginalised school-leavers too need intensive support and training to help them succeed in the work place.

The main political parties have a legal duty to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

It is imperative that the UK looks after families who fall into crisis, by maintaining a benefits system that will nurture the children most in need of it.

Chief executive, Barnardo’s