NEARLY one in five St Helens children have been classed as living in the “most severe poverty”.
Save the Children chiefs say Chancellor George Osborne must draw up an emergency plan after new figures revealed that 18 per cent of local youngsters - some 6,000 children - are living in severe poverty.
With increasing unemployment and cuts in welfare payments, Save the Children fear that even more children will be forced into severe poverty in the coming months without urgent action.
Sally Copley, the charity’s head of UK policy, said: “Children up and down the country are going to sleep at night in homes with no heating, without eating a proper meal and without proper school uniforms to put on in the morning.
“No child should be born without a chance. It is a national scandal.”
Save the Children is calling on the government to announce an emergency plan in the next budget to channel new jobs into areas like St Helens.
They also want them to increase financial support for low-income families, for example, by paying for more childcare costs to enable parents to work.
The charity also wants to see the government adopt its pioneering measurement of severe child poverty, which combines both income and material deprivation.
According to Save the Children, a lone-parent family with one child aged under 14 in severe poverty is living on an income of less than £7,000 and a couple with two children under 14 is on less than £12,500.
But these families are also going without the things that many of us take for granted, such as separate bedrooms for older boys and girls, not being able to properly celebrate birthdays or special events and not being able to build friendships by having children round for tea.
Ms Copley added: “If the government is to fulfil its commitments on child poverty, it must find a way of counting these children in greatest need.
“At the moment, these children are hidden from official view and their plight unrecognised.
“If these children are to have a future, we must acknowledge their desperate need and urgently target government help towards them.”