HUNDREDS of thousands of children in the North East are trapped in a cycle of poverty, new figures show.
According to new statistics, around 200,000 children in the region are now existing in severely poverty-stricken conditions, without enough food to eat or clothes to keep warm.
The damning findings show a huge increase from 2010, when 73,000 children were living in extreme hardship.
Working families are also being drawn into poverty, campaigners say, because of the large number of people in part-time and low-paid jobs.Related content
The news comes as the number of breakfast clubs and food banks rise across the region in an attempt to reduce the number of children living on the breadline.
Many children in the North East are forced to miss regular hot meals, go without warm coats or new shoes and are suffering enormous emotional strain.
In a report mapping child poverty the charity shows how Newcastle has one of the highest levels with 31% of children living in poverty.
In Gateshead 25% of children live in poverty, 28% in South Tyneside, 21% in North Tyneside, 26% in Sunderland and 22% in Durham.
The statistics show that the lowest proportion of children living in hardship is in Northumberland at 18%.
Last night Graham Whitham, poverty adviser for the UK at Save the Children, said the North East was falling behind the rest of the country when it came to jobs and the economy.
He said: “Areas in the North East have got real problems with children’s poverty and people in the area are really suffering in terms of job loses and public spending cuts.
“The reality is that poverty in places like Newcastle is becoming more acute. Hardship is becoming greater and poverty is becoming worse for more people.
“We really need the Government to recognise the challenges people face. The North of England as a whole is being left behind.
“Any recovery of jobs is happening in London, while in the North East job loses is continuing to grow.
“There is much more spending cuts to come next year, which could make things worse.
“The North East is being hit hard, in particular, because of the lack of jobs and the amount of low paid jobs.
“In Newcastle at least one parent works in the majority of families but there are too many low paid jobs and there isn’t enough full time, well-paid jobs around.”
Sara Bryson, Policy and Business Development Manager for charity Children North East, said: “Most people living in poverty in the North East are working parents, not people on benefits.
"We know that things are getting worse and the situation can only get worse because of things like changes to welfare reforms and rising costs of heating and food.”
Last year the charity conducted a project asking children to photograph what they considered to be ‘poverty’ in their communities.
She said: “The biggest concern of children is the quality of their housing. It’s damp, they’re embarrassed, they don’t want to take their friends back there.
“There’s overcrowding too with three or four children a bedroom.”
Save the Children is now calling for the Government to encourage more employers to pay the living wage, so parents can earn enough to lift their children out of poverty.
The charity’s chief executive said: “No parent should see their child going hungry or start the new term without a warm coat and with holes in their shoes.
“Poverty is tearing families apart, with parents buckling under he pressure of mounting bills and children seeing their parents argue more about money.
“That’s why for the first time in our history we are launching a UK appeal. We need to help poor families survive the recession.”