DISADVANTAGED children face some of the worst prospects growing up in Bournemouth compared to the rest of England, a new report has found.

The news comes on top of a leading local campaigner claiming that child poverty in the Bournemouth area has almost doubled.

The Social Mobility Commission report found that Bournemouth was in the bottom quarter of England's 324 local authorities for social mobility.

The authorities were ranked to assess the life chances of youngsters from deprived backgrounds. The report analysed children from nursery right up to university, finding a huge variation in prospects for babies born into disadvantaged families depending on where they grow up.

*In Bournemouth 51 per cent of five-year-olds eligible for free school meals achieve "a good level of development" by the time they are ready to start primary school, compared with 69 per cent in the south London borough of Lewisham, said the commission. Only 35 per cent go on to achieve the expected level in reading, writing and maths by age 11.

* Fewer than one in six children on free school meals in Poole go on to higher education compared to 53 per cent in Westminster, the highest proportion in England.

*The picture was brighter in East Dorset, where the report found disadvantaged children face better than average prospects. The local authority is in the top half of England's 324 local authorities for social mobility at number 147.

Claire Matthews, who founded the Hope For Food soup kitchen and food service said: “Last year we helped 689 kids,” she said. “This year, so far, it’s over 1,000 so it’s getting worse and we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are running four soup kitchens a week.”

Her experience mirrors the findings of a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which said there had been a ‘turning point’ in the fight against poverty following the first sustained increases in child and pensioner poverty for 20 years.

The JRF said poverty rates increased last year, leaving 14 million people living in poverty, including four million children and 1.9 million pensioners. It said almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners were living in poverty than four years before, with little progress in reducing the situation among working age adults.

“New threats are emerging to the poorest households, including rising housing costs, higher food and energy bills, debts and not being able to contribute to a pension,” said the report.

Claire Matthews agrees. “The major part of it is Universal Credit,” she said, adding that many of the people she was helping include those in traditionally ‘good’ jobs. “We have people who work in banks, schools and opticians but they have not got enough money to feed their children. It’s getting worse and I’d say it’s almost doubled.”

The Daily Echo contacted Bournemouth’s two MPs, Conor Burns and Tobias Ellwood, but neither were available for comment as we went to press.