MORE than four million children are living in poverty in the UK. That is the horrendous legacy of this Tory Government.

In this big, rich country, children are living without adequate food, clothing, heating and housing.

This week’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme Growing Up Poor: Britain’s Breadline Kids should be mandatory viewing for every candidate in this miserable election campaign.

Watching the plight of eight-year-old Courtney in Cambridge, her younger brother and their mother – who are now living on £5 per day and sleeping in their coats to stay warm after escaping abuse while they wait to receive their delayed Universal Credit payment – made my blood boil and my heart sore. Viewers saw young children with pale, tired, malnourished faces, discussing how food banks work and sharing their worries about Christmas.

READ MORE: Child poverty to ‘keep rising’ under Tory manifesto plans

Indeed without Dispatches this national scandal might have hardly raised a whimper in this election campaign. It should be the great wake-up call and enough in itself to put a line through the political parties jointly and severally liable – Tories and their former partners in government, Jo Swinson’s (below) LibDems.

Dispatches follows on from the Just Surviving series by The Ferret and HuffPost last week, which examined child poverty in Fife as one part of their four-part report. Fiona Cunningham at Fife Gingerbread, a charity which supports lone parents, vulnerable and disadvantaged families across Fife, spoke eloquently about the huge increase in families living on the breadline, and about the poverty trap as a combination of zero-hour contracts, minimum wages, high rents in the private sector, an exorbitant cost of living, and expensive childcare. Combine all this with draconian welfare reforms and the introduction of Universal Credit and it’s a toxic downward spiral hitting our children hard.

The National:

As a mother, watching these recent interviews is very painful. To see children so obviously anxious and undernourished is horrendous, and to imagine what the parents are going through, of not being able to provide as they would wish for their kids, the unrelenting pressure and stress, is almost unbearable. We can’t ignore these real stories and real lives, we can’t see it as someone else’s problem, as collateral damage so books can be balanced while the already rich accumulate even more wealth. We can’t ignore this cruel and immoral lack of care for our children.

Here’s some statistics from the Child Poverty Action Group that puts this 4.1m into even starker perspective – 30% of children in the UK live in poverty; 47% of children in lone-parent families are in poverty; but 70% of poor children are in working families. By 2022 it’s estimated that 5.2m children will be living in poverty if nothing is done to reverse the damage of Tory austerity. Last week, we discovered courtesy of the Resolution Foundation that child poverty risks rising to a 60-year high if a Conservative government is returned at the General Election. This think tank asserts that much of the blame for this rise is due to the impact of the two-child cap on support for families. And we all know whose clever idea that was.

Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson can dissemble as much as he likes to the media and general public, pretending that child poverty has gone down thanks to the hard but essential spending choices made by the Tory Government, but the figures don’t lie. The reality is very different, and austerity is far from over. Because the truth is, as much as he tries to distance himself from it, the failure to protect children’s basic human rights in the UK is down to his government and his party.

The truth is in short supply when it comes to Johnson and his over-privileged, self-interested, career-driven cronies. Indeed it is just about the only thing that they lack.

READ MORE: SNP call for poverty commission to 'expose austerity hardship'

So, here’s what you can do to change this inequality, to fight back against this terrible injustice and hardship for children. You can vote, you can vote to get the Tories out, out of Scotland and out of the UK. And be careful who you put in. Commentators are puzzled by the collapse of the LibDems in this campaign. It is not the result of Swinson’s massive hubris and slightly grating manner. It is the consequence of her being a minister in the coalition government. If they had been led by the late Charles Kennedy I think they could have swept England and some of Scotland at this election.

Change won’t happen overnight. There is much to be done in the meantime. You can give your time and money to the many dedicated charities tackling child poverty around Scotland and the UK, like Fife Gingerbread’s Heat And Eat Festive package or Cambridge News and Cambridgeshire Live’s Surviving Winter campaign, to help families like Courtney’s, or you can donate to food banks and drop new and unwrapped presents into MPs’ offices, supermarkets and shopping malls where collections are being organised. The list goes on. There is no excuse for walking by on the other side.

Charity is an important stop-gap in these desperate times, but it does not let the progenitors of austerity off the hook. The election on December 12 is our democratic opportunity for change, to save our children’s future, to rid ourselves of the incompetence and inhumanity of this UK government.

So, take your pick, but whatever you do, do something. It’s about “taking back control”, to paraphrase the Brexiteers, to ensure that these callous right-wingers never get the chance to treat our children so badly ever again. When Christ said “suffer the little children” he did not mean continue to let them suffer but to come and be comforted.