MORE than 10,000 children in Southampton were living in poverty even before the pandemic, new data has shown.

In Southampton, 10,286 children aged under 16 were living in low income families in 2019-20, an estimated 22 per cent of all youngsters in the area according to Department for Work and Pensions data.

A family is defined as in low income if it earns less than 60 per cent of the national median household income before housing costs.

This 2019-20 figure was a rise compared to the 16 per cent recorded just five years earlier with 28 per cent of children being below school age.

Now charities are urging the Government to take action with Imran Hussain, Action for Children director of policy and campaigns, claiming the Government is "in denial", adding that "it is vital" a plan is brought forward.

Southampton Itchen MP, Royston Smith said however that he recognises there are children living in poverty and said he does everything he can to mitigate that.

He added: "Work is the quickest and most efficient route out of poverty.

"A laser like focus on jobs, dropping taxes and protecting low income workers with universal credit, that's what the government has been doing to try and alleviate poverty."

Other community leaders have also called on the government to take action with Cabinet Member for Children and Learning at Southampton City Council, Cllr Darren Paffey, branding the figures "worrying".

"We know that life can be really hard for families in poverty, and this Council is absolutely determined to do everything we can to help children as they grow up in Southampton. Government cannot ignore what is happening locally, and needs to step up and tackle the root causes of poverty."

Southampton Test MP, Alan Whitehead added: "The rise in child poverty across the country over the course of successive Conservative governments has been alarming.

"Although there are many causes it is strongly linked to the changes in child benefit which needs to be addressed."