BLACKBURN with Darwen has seen the highest levels of child poverty in the North West.

New research from Loughborough University has revealed that more than a third of children in the North West are living in poverty after housing costs are factored in

Child poverty levels across the North West have risen in almost every local area in the past four years, according to research published today by the End Child Poverty coalition.

The data shows the scale of the challenge faced by government if it is to realise its ambition to build back better and level up opportunities for children across the UK.

MP for Blackburn, Kate Hollern said: “This is a huge increase and will have a devastating effect on children and their families. I am very concerned that without action these statistics will continue to rise. If the Prime Minister is serious about levelling up the nation, he must give Blackburn with Darwen the economic support its children deserve.”

Research has shown that even before the pandemic, in some parts of the North West four in ten children were growing up in poverty, once housing costs are taken into account.

The biggest percentage point increases in child poverty between 2015 and 2019 across the East Lancashire are in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, Burnley and Hyndburn.

Blackburn with Darwen has seen a rise of 8.2% from 30.9% to 39.1% whilst Pendle now has 38.8% rate of child poverty, up 7.8% from 31.0%

Burnley's rate has increased by 6.6% from 31.8 to 38.4 and Hyndburn has also increased by 6.5% from 31.9 to 38.4

In the past, low incomes in some areas were counteracted by cheaper housing costs, but in the last five years rents have continued to rise across England. It means for many families, once their housing costs are paid, they do not have enough money to meet their children’s needs and are left no option but to turn to crisis help, like food banks, and are increasingly reliant on free school meals.

Sam Royston, Director of Policy at The Children’s Society, said: "This data is so shocking, it shows that over the last five years thousands of children across the North West have been pulled into poverty in part because of unmanageable increases in rental costs.

"That is thousands more children living in households where parents struggle to make ends meet. This was the picture before the devastating impact of the Coronavirus crisis, which we know has hit low income families particularly hard.

“Children are deeply affected by poverty; they are more likely to experience poorer physical and mental health; do less well in school; and have fewer opportunities in the future.

"The government needs a clear strategy to end child poverty, providing Free School Meals to all children in families receiving Universal Credit would be a big step in the right direction.”

The End Child Poverty coalition is urging the Government to set out a plan to tackle child poverty encompassing not only social security spending but the high cost of housing and childcare and investment in children’s services.

Earlier this year, Boris Johnson was rebuked by the statistics watchdog for his repeated misuse of child poverty statistics.

The Statistics Authority upheld a complaint from the End Child Poverty coalition judging that on three separate occasions his statements on child poverty were ‘incorrect’.

MP for Burnley Antony Higginbotham, is calling for a levelling up across the country.

He said: “It’s important that people, whether they live in Burnley and Padiham or in London, have the same opportunities to succeed.

"I was elected on a platform to level up our area and that’s exactly what I’m working to achieve”.

The report is based on data published by the Department for Work and Pensions in March 2020, and on estimates of the effect of housing costs on poverty rates produced by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, based on survey evidence.

A DWP Spokesperson said: “There are 100,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty than in 2009/10 and making sure every child gets the best start in life is central to our efforts to level up opportunity across the country.

“We have already taken significant steps to do this by raising the living wage, ending the benefit freeze and injecting more than £9.3 billion into the welfare system to help those in most need.”