ALMOST a quarter of children in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole were "living in poverty" last year, new figures suggest.

Figures from charity End Child Poverty have revealed that 15,774 children met their criteria for poverty in 2018 to 2019 in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

This is 23.2 per cent of children in the area.

The charity has now expressed concerns that figures have increased further due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The figure has decreased when compared to dates between 2014 to 2015, in which 16,306 children were defined as living in poverty in Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole.

However the figures have gradually started to increase.

In 2017 to 2018, there were 15,732 children who met the definition.

A child is deemed to be growing up in poverty if they live in a household whose income is 60 per cent below the median income.

For a family of two adults and two children, 60 per cent of the median income in 2018 to 2019 was £432 a week.

Although the new analysis – which take in housing costs for the first time – shows child poverty rates have been relatively stable across the South as a whole, they also show that there are areas where the combination of low income and relatively high housing costs are creating levels of child poverty that are as high as the hardest hit parts of the country.

There were a total of 6,915 children living in poverty in the New Forest – a total of 24.2 per cent.

Anna Feuchtwang, chairman of End Child Poverty, which commissioned the research, said: “The Government can be in no doubt about the challenge it faces if it is serious about ‘levelling up’ disadvantaged parts of the country.

“This new data reveals the true extent of the hardship experienced by families on low incomes – the overwhelming majority of which were working households before the pandemic.

“The children affected are on a cliff edge, and the pandemic will only sweep them further into danger.

“The Prime Minister must urgently admit to the true extent of child poverty in our country rather than resorting to his own inaccurate statistics. An ambitious plan to put this shameful situation right would be transformational for millions of children.”

Yesterday Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford launched a petition calling on the Government to "act now to end child poverty" in the UK.