MORE than 3,000 children in the Hexham constituency are trapped in poverty, statistics from No Child Left Behind have revealed.

The most recent figures show that 3,329 children are living in poverty - a staggering 24 per cent of all children living in Hexham.

It comes as The West Northumberland Food Bank is forecasting a 20 per cent increase in demand over the next 12 months amid soaring household costs, energy price hikes and changes to the benefits system.

The Hexham-based food bank, which has been operational for nearly 10 years, operates a delivery service and helpline.

Over the last 12 months, a team of volunteers have made 5,069 doorstep deliveries of 7,289 tinned and dried food parcels worth around £13.50 each and 1,420 fresh food parcels, as well as other household essentials such as toilet rolls, nappies and washing powder.

The food bank’s two vans have covered around 13,500 miles taking supplies to 570 households across 44 towns and villages, helping to support a total of 1,242 people – 795 of which were adults and 447 children. Last year, only 256 were children.

Ten per cent of current users are pensioners, 20 per cent are in low-paid employment and 26 per cent are receiving treatment for mental and or physical health.

The helpline, open Monday-Friday from 10am-2pm, is currently taking calls from around 100 households each week. And 55 per cent of callers have never used a food bank before or for a very long time – up by three per cent from September. The helpline received around 65 calls a week last year.

One user said: “I’ve had seasonal jobs, full-time jobs, and now I’m part-time. Universal Credit comes in one hand and goes straight on bills. I’ve got my wage coming in but more than half of it goes on my rent. I’ve got a hundred and odd quid to last me four weeks.”

Another said: “The meter’s taking off loads for debt. I’m scared to put the heating on.”

The helpline, which also signposts to other services, is expecting to take 4,500 calls over the next 12 months.

It comes after the team distributed £15,660 of its Hardship Fund to provide shopping and energy vouchers for callers in sudden hardship or to any new caller.

This same fund will be used to support families over the busy Christmas period; plans are afoot to deliver 250 Christmas hampers and gifts as well as Christmas cost of living awards of £100 and £150 to households in long-term hardship for their gas prepayment meters in partnership with Northumberland County Council’s Household Support Fund.

The food bank’s annual Christmas appeal, with Hexham BP, will also provide presents for around 200 children. Every family on the Christmas angel list will also receive a voucher for a local grocer, including Threadgolds, Prudhoe, and butcher, Cranstons, Hexham. The vouchers are supported by Hadrian’s Wall Rotary and the EG Group who operate the garage.

Hexham Courant:

This year, approximately £66,700 worth of stock was donated by local people and funds from donors helped to buy additional supplies costing £31,694.