A FIFTH of children in Northumberland are living in relative poverty, new figures show.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show 11,066 children in Northumberland were living in relative poverty in the year ending April 2022.

It meant 21.4 per cent of children in the area were in a family whose income was below 60 per cent of average household income and claimed child benefit and at least one other household benefit.

Of these children, 9,078 were in absolute poverty as their family's income was lower than 60 per cent of the median income established in 2010-2011 – accounting for 17.6 per cent of kids in the area.

Overall, that figure was down from 25.5 per cent of children who were living in poverty in 2020-21 but up from 14.7 per cent seen in 2014-15 when comparable records began.

The West Northumberland Food Bank has told the Courant that if demand carries on throughout this year, it would be looking at an over 100 per cent increase in the number of local families seeking help.

Project manager Sam Gilchrist explained: "Things have continued to get worse for local families as living standards have continued to fall.

"In the last six months alone, we have helped 232 local families with 467 children with food parcels, shopping vouchers and emergency prepayment meter top-ups; in 2021, we helped to feed 256 local children."

Across the UK, 2.47 million children (20.1 per cent) were in relative poverty and 1.89 million children (15.3 per cent) were in absolute poverty in April 22.

About 18.7 per cent of children were in relative poverty and 15.1 per cent in absolute poverty the year before.

Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member with responsibility for children's services at Northumberland County Council, said: "While child poverty in Northumberland is below the regional average, there are areas of the county where families need more support.  

"As a council, we work closely with our partners to do all that we can to support anyone who is struggling and we would urge them to get in touch at the earliest opportunity to try and stop any emerging problem from escalating to crisis point.   

"In the short term, over the school holidays, parents or carers of children and young people in Northumberland, who receive free school meals during term-time, are eligible to receive vouchers towards food and fuel costs through the Government’s Household Support Fund (HSF) and our Holiday Activity Fund (HAF) activities are also supporting children over the holidays with opportunities to have fun and make memories.      

"Our children’s centres are expanding their services to become family hubs with lots of activities taking place to make sure families get the right support at the right time whatever the age of their child.  

"Longer term – we're investing over £100 million in our education facilities, continuing to forge strong partnerships with employers and working hard to attract investment, such as the recent Northumberland Line commitment, to our wonderful county."

Gill O'Neill, director of public health at Northumberland County Council, explained that: "inequalities and the rising cost of living are among the most important problems facing residents in Northumberland".

Her comment follows the creation of an Inequalities Plan, developed with local communities and organisations, which has allocated funding to support warm homes, debt management, tackle food poverty and work with schools specifically on child poverty.

Anyone who is struggling should contact Northumberland Communities Together on 01670620015 or at NCT@northumberland.gov.uk