Video report by Kris Jepson
Campaigners are calling on the government to help support vulnerable North East families as new research revealed the region has the highest rate of child poverty in the country.
Figures show nearly 40% of babies, children and young people in the North East are living below the poverty line.
The research, by Loughborough University, on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition, found child poverty rates in the North East had almost doubled from being below the national average in 2014/15 at 26% to the worst in the country by 2020/21 at 38%.
Middlesbrough Foodbank volunteers told ITV News Tyne Tees that they had seen a dramatic rise in demand in the last six months.
Tracey Godfrey-Harrison, from the food bank, said: "On Friday just gone (8 July), in two hours they had fed 102 people. That’s crazy.
"People are coming to our food banks and saying ‘don’t worry about us, just makes sure we’ve got enough food to feed our children’."
She added that it makes you "sad really, that they’re thinking that way, that they don’t matter, when actually they’re just as important as their children are".
Every local authority area in the North East reported significant increases in child poverty rates between 2014/15 and 2020/21, with Newcastle, Gateshead, Redcar and Cleveland and Sunderland seeing the most dramatic rises.
Six of the region's local authorities also now feature in the list of the 20 council areas with the highest child poverty rates in the whole of the UK:
Newcastle at 42.2%
Middlesbrough at 41.2%
Sunderland at 39.7%
Redcar and Cleveland at 39.3%
South Tyneside at 39.1%
Hartlepool at 39%
Former Labour MP, Anna Turley, now chairs the North East Child Poverty Commission.
She told ITV News: "Levelling up has just been a charade. We’re outstripping the rest of the country.
"We’ve overtaken London now for the highest rates of child poverty. That’s not acceptable.
"Unemployment is one of the biggest drivers in this area, so we’ve got to tackle that and bring more jobs and investment to the area, secondly it’s low pay (we need to tackle) and thirdly we need a social security that’s going to support people and that means benefits rising with inflation."
A government spokesperson said: "The latest figures show there were 500,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs than in 2009/10.
"But we recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting the 8 million most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of direct payments, starting this week.
"Through our £37 billion support package we are saving the typical employee over £330 a year through a tax cut this month, allowing people on Universal Credit to keep £1,000 more of what they earn and in April we significantly increased the National Living Wage to £9.50, the largest ever rise.
"In addition, we have expanded access to free school meals more than any other government in recent decades, while vulnerable families in England are being supported by the Government’s Household Support Fund – which was recently boosted by another £500million."
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