Children living in poverty cannot wait for “an ideal world” for the two-child benefit cap to be scrapped, campaigners have said.

It comes after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would make such a change but that “we haven’t got the resources to do it at the moment”.

Figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and human rights lawyer Cherie Blair have previously called for the cap, which was introduced in 2017 and restricts Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to the first two children in most households, to be done away with.

In recent days, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said Labour could not promise to scrap the policy without being able to set out how to pay for it.

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Wes Streeting said Labour could not promise to scrap the cap without knowing how to pay for it (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

On Friday, Sir Keir indicated he would like to scrap it but could not commit to doing so.

He was asked by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he would consider scrapping the cap, the Labour leader said: “In an ideal world, of course. But we haven’t got the resources to do it at the moment.

“What I will do, because child poverty is something I am absolutely set against, the last Labour government had an anti-child poverty strategy and we managed to do a huge amount of good stuff on child poverty.

“We will do the same thing and have a child poverty strategy, but there are other elements to it.”

The Children’s Prosperity Plan – a campaign urging society to pull a million children out of relative poverty in the UK by 2030 and backed by Mrs Blair – said more rapid action is needed.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “We welcome Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer’s comments that he would remove the two-child limit in an ideal world, but urge him to commit to a policy change that cannot wait any longer.

“The one million children in the UK living in poverty because of this policy cannot wait for an ideal world. These children, many of whom are ethnic minorities and living in homes where someone is disabled, will have to contend with long-term impacts on their health, wellbeing and educational outcomes.

“This Tory policy denies the truth that all children are of equal and immeasurable worth. We cannot hope to achieve a strong economy and strong communities for as long as millions of our children are growing up in poverty.”

Government figures published in March showed the number of children living in poverty across the UK had hit a record high.

There were an estimated 4.33 million children in households in relative low income after housing costs in the year to March 2023.

That was up from 4.22 million the previous year and was above the previous high of 4.28 million in the year to March 2020.

The latest figure was the highest since comparable records for the UK began in 2002-03.