The White House has defended cuts in President Donald Trump's budget that some claim will have a negative effect on poor children and the elderly.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney defended proposed cuts to community development block grants which cover programmes such as meals on wheels for the elderly, and educational after-school clubs that give food to children living below the poverty line.

"They're supposed to be educational programmes, right? They're supposed to help kids who don't get fed at home get fed so they do better at school," he said in comments carried by The Hill.

"Guess what - there's no demonstrable evidence they're doing that, helping results, helping kids do better in school … which, when we took the money from you, the way we justified it was these programmes are going to help children do better in school and get better jobs. We can't prove that is happening."

In particular, the proposed $6bn cut to Housing and Urban Development has prompted a backlash, with critics saying such cuts will make it difficult for Trump to fulfil his promise of regenerating inner cities.

Responding to suggestions from the media that the budget is "hard-hearted", Mulvaney said that it is actually compassionate.

"We're trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the people who give us the money in the first place," he said.

"I think it's compassionate to say we're not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore, single mom-of-two in Detroit ... We're not going to do that any more unless we can guarantee to you that that money is being used in a proper function. That's about as compassionate as you can get," he added.