More than a third of children in Blackburn with Darwen are living in poverty, new figures show.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that 12,840 children in Blackburn with Darwen were living in relative poverty in the year ending April 2022.

It meant 36.5 per cent of children in the area were in a family whose income was below 60 per cent of the average household income and claimed child benefit and at least one other household benefit.

Of these children, 9,094 were in absolute poverty as their family's income was lower than 60 per cent of the median income established in 2010-2011 – accounting for (25.8 per cent) of kids in the area.

Overall, it was up from 33.9 per cent of children who were living in poverty in 2020-21.

This comes as families struggle more and more with the cost of living crisis, with prices at the pump and in supermarkets continuing to rise.

Sue Cotton, the chief executive of Child Action North West, which is based in Wilpshire, said that the figures were ‘unsurprising’.

She said: “Whilst the figures released are incredibly stark and shocking, unfortunately, they are not a surprise to organisations like ours who work to support some of the most vulnerable in society.

“We also know that similar statistics are mirrored across the region, with many towns across Lancashire seeing similar levels of deprivation and families struggling to get by.

“We see first-hand the impact that poverty has on children, if you’re unable to feel warm, are not well fed or secure in your housing it is difficult to function and do your best in school or to build happy healthy connections.

“A priority must be to provide a level playing field for all children so that they, at the very least, have an equal chance in life and we will continue to work in partnership with other to do our best for those who need us the most.”

A number of community interest companies and charities have been set up in Blackburn with Darwen to help those living below the poverty line.

Secret Santa, operated by Phil and Karen Boulding, started nearly seven years ago with a wish to give every child in the borough who was living in poverty a Christmas present.

As the rates of poverty have continued to worsen, Phil said that Secret Santa has branched out further to help more people in need.

He said: “These figures continue to be shocking in 2023.

“At Secret Santa we know this has been the case for a number of years and really why we moved to offering as many occasions of support as we can.

“What started as originally as essentially a Christmas offering has become an all year round activity.

“For us this means Christmas, winter period support for the elderly and lonely, Easter, Eid, support across the summer holidays, and a variety of projects before returning to Christmas again where the cycle starts all over again.

“This will be our seventh Christmas.

“Even in our low priced shop we see customers coming in, browsing and then having to wait till they scrape together the few pounds needed to buy whatever it is that they want or need.”

Within England, Leicester had the highest proportion of children aged under 16 in relative low income families (41.7 per cent) and City of London had the highest proportion in absolute low income families (38.9 per cent).

A Government spokesperson said they are “committed to eradicating poverty and supporting those in need, and our actions have helped ensure there are nearly two million fewer people in absolute poverty than there were in 2009-10”.

They said the latest figures “reflect the country coming out of the pandemic and accompanying rising prices” and that record levels of support have been provided through cost-of-living payments, the Household Support Fund and the Energy Price Guarantee which “will continue to hold down people’s energy bills".

Jo Siddle, Strategic Director for Children & Education at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Ensuring that our children and young people have opportunities to fulfil their potential is one of our key priorities, one of four missions in our Corporate Plan which will guide the Council’s work over the next four years.

“As Council officers, we are responsible for working with children and young people to support them to enjoy learning and do well, be happy and healthy, be prepared for adult life, have chances to get a rewarding job, and feel safe and listened to.

“We believe that everyone in our community should play their part to unlock every child’s potential – and we have strong local partnerships across health, education and voluntary, community and faith sector. By working together, and in collaboration with parents and carers, we strive to ensure there are opportunities for our young people to be the best they can be.

“Partnerships such as this are already helping to support families who may be struggling, for example through our Holiday Activities and Food Provision. This makes sure that families who are eligible for free school meals are supported during holidays, not only with food but with wraparound support.

“Blackburn with Darwen was recently named as one of 75 areas in England that will benefit from the £300 million investment over three years for Family Hubs. Four Family Hubs across the borough will offer a wide range support to families, from conception through to the age 19.

“Additionally, our plans to grow the local economy and make Blackburn with Darwen more prosperous borough with more job opportunities will contribute to lifting children and their families out of poverty.”