A charity last night warned the number of children living in poverty is set to soar in the North East as more than a quarter of families skip meals because they cannot afford food.
Save the Children claims the youngsters in the region will have their futures “written off” because of savage cuts to the welfare system and stagnant wages.
In the report A Fair Start for Every Child, the charity claims 28% of families in the North East do not have enough money to buy food for every meal.
And they say more than two thirds have been forced to borrow money from sources including friends, banks and payday loan providers to cover food and bills.
Last night, Washington MP Sharon Hodgson blamed David Cameron’s “cost of living crisis” for the huge burden child poverty places on the UK.
Mrs Hodgson, who is shadow minister for children and families, said: “This important report lays bare the impact on North East children and families of David Cameron’s cost of living crisis.
“Child poverty is everybody’s problem. With previous reports estimating a cost to the country of at least £29bn a year, tackling the causes and symptoms of poverty is therefore in everyone’s interest.
“Labour made great progress on this in Government and have already set out several ways in which we can reduce child poverty - including making work pay for parents by strengthening wages and extending free childcare, scrapping the bedroom tax and tackling the cost of living, particularly rents and energy bills – but we can and should go even further to reverse the rising tide of poverty under this Government.”
Save the Children’s report claims the number of children trapped in poverty in the UK is set to soar to a record five million by the end of the decade.
Charity chiefs expect a 41% increase from 3.5 million now to five million by 2020.
The report also states that young people have paid the highest price in the recession.
Food prices leaped by 19% between 2007 and 2011, and childcare costs have risen by 77% since 2003.
Due to a “poverty premium”, the report says the poorest families now spend £1,639 more a year on basics than the average household.
This is because they are more likely to pay heating bills via a meter, which costs more, and they are less able to save money by bulk buying food.
In the North East it’s claimed a quarter of families cannot make their budgets stretch to evening activities for their children.
And the a survey of 4,000 parents carried out in March shows that nearly one in eight were unable to buy their children new shoes when they needed them.
It also found that nearly half of North East parents report their household income has decreased in the past five years – the worst rate across the country.
Only 35% of parents in the region said they are optimistic about the economy in their area.
Justin Forsyth, chief executive of the charity, said: “Millions of children in the UK are being sentenced to a lifetime of poverty.
“Far too many are living in cold and damp homes without healthy food.
“If we ignore the rising toll of poverty we are blighting the future of a further 1.4 million children. In one of the world’s richest countries there is simply no excuse.”
Save the Children says the figures come despite the all-party pledge to eradicate the problem by 2020.
It warns that unless politicians act, by the end of the decade there will be 154,000 more children living in a cold home and 23,000 more teenagers not achieving five A* to C grades in their GCSEs.
The report said: “We are increasingly concerned that, in the UK, life for children in poorer families is getting worse.
“After a decline in child poverty more than a decade ago, child poverty rates since 2004 have plateaued.
“Now, following the recession and during the recovery, they are set to rise dramatically. Unless we address the threat of rising child poverty now, we risk a whole generation of children from poor families being left behind.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Government is committed to ending child poverty by tackling its root causes as part of our long-term economic plan.
“Our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”