NORTH-EAST leaders have pledged to tackle “sad and shocking” levels of child poverty.

More than a third of youngsters in the region are living below the poverty line, figures which one council chief told colleagues they should be “ashamed” of.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) has now pledged to set up a new child poverty prevention programme aimed at intervening in schools and workplaces to help struggling families.

Research by IPPR North last year showed 35 per cent of children in the North-East are living in poverty - the second highest rate in England - and that the region has seen the largest rise, 9 per cent, since 2013, having experienced a 13 per cent drop in child poverty between 1999 and 2013.

In the North of Tyne region, which covers Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside, 22 per cent of children live in poverty – more than half of which are in working households.

The NTCA’s programme, which it is hoped will be in place by autumn, would see an estimated £875,000 going towards a series of projects. The interventions could include helping more eligible families to apply for free school meals, placing specialist welfare advisers in schools and working with employers to ensure ‘poverty proofing’.

North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll told the meeting: “We have very limited resources for the scale of the project, however innovative we are in targeting that. That is why we submitted to government last year a recovery plan as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, which was cancelled but will be coming around again. I  know the team is already refreshing these plans ready to go so we are there the second that opportunity occurs.

“That regional plan is to create 55,000 direct, good quality jobs in the North-East. That is a game-changer and ultimately, that is what is needed to directly tackle child poverty.”