Nearly 15,000 children in Northumberland are living in poverty, new figures reveal.
The statistics were released by the End Child Poverty coalition, covering the period from July to September 2017.
They show that a total of 14,847 (24.18 per cent) youngsters throughout the county face poverty – up from 23.48 per cent on the 2016 figures (October to December 2015).
In the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency, the Druridge Bay ward is the worst affected area, with 343 children (30.66 per cent) living below the breadline.
The sharpest percentage rise in the Berwick constituency was in Wooler, which has climbed 13.47 per cent – from 7.74 per cent in the 2016 figures to 21.21 per cent this time round (145 children).
Other wards to notice a significant increase are Shilbottle (up 8.33 per cent to 21.50 per cent) where there are 195 children living in poverty and Rothbury (up 8.84 per cent, to 21.50 per cent), where 169 youngsters are living below the breadline.
There have also been increases in Alnwick (401 children/23.45 per cent); Bamburgh (160 children/24.61 per cent); Longhoughton (135 children/16.01 per cent) and Norham and Islandshires (166 children/26.38 per cent).
However, some wards in the Berwick constituency have seen a decrease in child-poverty rates, including Amble.
The figures show there are 291 children (28.37 per cent) living in poverty in the Amble ward, which is a drop from 31.12 per cent last time round, while Amble West with Warkworth has dropped from 17.56 per cent to 15.33 per cent (90 children).
There has also been a decline in Longhorsley, with 58 children (9.56 per cent) now living below the breadline.
In Berwick, tthere are mixed fortunes. Child-poverty rates have dropped in Berwick East (301 children/27.32 per cent), but risen slightly in Berwick West with Ord (246 children/30.03 per cent) and Berwick North (176 children/21.42 per cent).
Child poverty in the constituency has increased on the whole, to 23.62 per cent (3,161 children), from 22.09 per cent.
More than a quarter of children are living in poverty in both the Blyth Valley and Wansbeck constituencies.
In the Wansbeck constituency, 4,773 youngsters – equivalent to 28.21 per cent of the child population – were found to be living below the breadline.
A further 4,541 children (26.28 per cent) were facing hardship in Blyth Valley.
The worst affected ward in the Blyth Valley constituency was Croft, where 391 children (40.11 per cent) were living in poverty.
In Wansbeck, the picture is particularly bleak in Hirst, where there were 556 children – or 40.14 per cent – in poverty, and in Newbiggin Central and East (366 children/40 per cent).
The figures relate to the number of children living in poverty after the cost of housing is taken into consideration.
Politicians’ dismay at ‘horrifying’ statistics
Disturbing, horrifying and a disgrace – these are the strong views of politicians as they reflect on the latest child-poverty figures for Northumberland.
The Druridge Bay division had the highest percentage in the Berwick constituency and ward councillor Scott Dickinson expressed his dismay.
He said: “These figures don’t surprise me, but they sadden me. Over recent years, benefit changes, loss of large employers and an entire range of other policy changes by the Conservative government have caused major issues.
“Never as a local member have I seen foodbanks and support services at places like Hadston House required so much.
“Luckily in Hadston and Widdrington we have a fantastic community spirit that pulls together and helps one another, dedicated parish councillors and community organisations that provide a community wealth that money cannot buy.”
Wooler saw a sharp rise in child poverty and ward member Coun Anthony Murray said action must be taken to address the issues.
He said: “The increase in numbers of young people in poverty in Wooler along with other areas in Northumberland is very disturbing.
“I do not know what the reason is behind this but I will be doing all I can to find out why this problem is increasing and what can be done to reverse it.
“Our young people are our future and we must do everything we can to reverse this trend.”
The Gazette contacted Berwick Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan for comment but did not receive one before going to publication.
Reflecting on the figures for Wansbeck, MP Ian Lavery said: “Sadly this report does not surprise me. The stories I hear from constituents of day-to-day suffering and struggle have increased year-on-year since the Tories took power in 2010.
“The figures tell only part of the story as areas right across my constituency have more than half of local residents having their lives marred by poverty.”
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell condemned government social-welfare cuts and described the situation as a disgrace.