NEW RESEARCH released this week revealed that half of children in some parts of the UK are growing up in poverty.

The research, by the End Child Poverty coalition, shows that some of the most deprived areas of the country have seen big increases in recent years.

It will be no surprise to residents in Bradford that two of our parliamentary constituencies – Bradford West and Bradford East – were included in a list of the top 20 constituencies with the highest levels of child poverty in the UK.

In Bradford West, the research shows, 47.3 per cent of children – or 16,989 boys and girls – live in poverty, up from 37 per cent two years ago.

The Bradford East figures are similar: 17,228 children, or 46.7 per cent, up from a previous 38 per cent. The two constituencies stand eighth and ninth respectively in the table.

The figures, published by a coalition of more than 100 organisations including children’s charities, child welfare organisations, social justice groups, faith groups, trade unions and others, reveal a big disparity in poverty rates across the UK.

Child poverty is the highest in large cities, particularly in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Among the rest of the 20 parliamentary constituencies with the highest levels of childhood poverty, seven are located in London, three in Birmingham, and three in Manchester.

It would be tempting to think that poverty is simply a problem for big inner city, urban areas.

But a closer examination of the figures shows that child poverty is an issue in every community, no matter how rural or well-heeled it may appear.

End Child Poverty says households are living in poverty if their household income (adjusted to account for household size) is less than 60 per cent of the average. All poverty rates are calculated on an after-housing costs basis.

Studying the statistics on the basis of local authority wards, there is only one – Wharfedale – where the percentage of children living in poverty drops into single figures. The ward’s figure of 8.33 per cent represents 212 children.

Even in the next lowest ward, Ilkley, the figure is 10.5 per cent, or 300 boys and girls.

Although Bradford West and East as a whole do not tip over into the parliamentary constituencies where more than half of children live in poverty, shockingly there are six council wards that do: Bradford Moor (54.2 per cent), Manningham (53.3), City (52.1), Bowling and Barkerend (52), Little Horton (51.6) and Keighley Central (51.4).

But even areas such as Craven (12.6 per cent), Baildon (13), Bingley Rural (21.8), Idle and Thackley (14.7) and Worth Valley (15.5) have levels of child poverty that will surprise many people.

Sam Royston, who chairs End Child Poverty and is director of policy and research at the Children’s Society, said: “It is scandalous that a child born in some parts of the UK now has a greater chance of growing up in poverty, than being in a family above the breadline.”

But he said the fact any child was living in poverty in any area was unacceptable: “No family in modern Britain should be struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and clothe their children.”

End Child Poverty is calling on the Government to end the freeze on children’s benefits and to invest in interest-free credit for low income families, “to ensure that poverty doesn’t result in spiralling debt”.

Mr Royston’s comments were supported by Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, who said: “These figures make for very difficult reading and it is not right that families in Bradford West are being pushed into such hardship.”

Her counterpart in Bradford East, Imran Hussain, said: “The rapid rise in child poverty… is a stain on our record as a modern, civilised and compassionate country and it is one that should shame the Government.”

The End Child Poverty campaign says that child poverty blights childhoods because growing up in poverty can mean being cold, going hungry and not being able to join in activities with friends.

It says it can also have long-lasting effects on educational achievement. Its research shows that, by GCSEs, there is a 28 per cent gap between children receiving free school meals and their wealthier peers in terms of the number achieving at least five A*-C grades.

And child poverty can impact health, with men in the most deprived areas of the UK, for instance, having a life expectancy nine years lower than in the least deprived areas.

End Child Poverty’s key policy is to hold political parties to their commitment to eradicate child poverty in the UK by 2020.

To achieve that, they say, every child in every area, regardless of how deprived it is, should “live in a family that is able to afford the basic essentials, be able to make the most of their learning and development, have a secure and warm home, and have enough good food to keep them healthy and help them grow”.

Until we stop seeing child poverty as an issue only for the most deprived areas, surely those targets will seem a long way off.