NEARLY a quarter of children in Wyre Forest were living in poverty last year, new figures show.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show 4,029 Wyre Forest children aged under 16 were living in relative poverty in the year to March 2023.

It meant 23.7% of children in the area were in a family whose income was below 60% of average household income before housing costs. They also claimed child benefit and at least one other household benefit.

This was up from 22.6% the year before and the highest rate since comparable records began in 2014-15.

Of all the children facing poverty in Wyre Forest, 1,100 were below school age.

Lynn Perry MBE, CEO of Barnardo’s, said: “Living in poverty means children miss out on opportunities and the activities that make childhood fun and support their development.

“The Government needs to urgently focus on reducing child poverty.

“That should start with a strategy for ending child poverty, including ending the two-child limit ‘sibling penalty’ on benefit payments and ensuring struggling families can afford essentials like food and household bills.”

Children’s commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza said she was “horrified” by the figures and called for welfare reform, including auto-enrolment for free school meals and more free breakfast clubs.

She said: “We need to go much further, faster to support these families, because no child should grow up in poverty in the sixth richest country in the world.”

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride said: “I know the last few years have been tough, with the aftershocks of Covid and the war of Ukraine driving up inflation and cost of living pressures.

“That’s exactly why we stepped in with the biggest cost of living package in Europe, worth an average of £3,800 per household, and this unprecedented support prevented 1.3 million people from falling into poverty in 2022-23.

“We’re also going further in April, by uprating benefits and pensions to support millions of people on the lowest incomes and extending the Household Support Fund to provide vital support for those most in need.”