21/02/2013 05:17 GMT | Updated 22/04/2013 06:12 BST

Child Poverty Figures Reveal a Divided Nation

Shocking figures published this week show that in some parts of the UK, nearly half children live in poverty. Nowhere is free from child poverty, and even in the most affluent areas, families are struggling to get by from day to day.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty - of which The Children's Society is a member - has produced a new map of child poverty in the UK. It reveals a deeply divided nation. At one end of the scale, in Manchester Central, 47% of children are in poverty. At the other, in the Sheffield Hallam constituency, the figure is less than 5%.

But no community is free from the problem, and the map puts into stark relief the need for urgent action to end child poverty in the UK. With 3.6 million children currently in poverty, we've got a long way to go.

Behind these numbers lie the reality that children living in poverty have to face every day. A shocking 1,660 families - with either children or a pregnant woman - were forced to live in unsuitable bed and breakfast style accommodation in the first part of 2012. This is an increase of 60% on the previous year. A survey from The Children's Society recently revealed that nearly half of teachers often see children coming into school hungry, with no lunch and no means to pay for one. Six million households are struggling just to afford to heat their homes.

Unless things change, the situation is only going to get worse in coming years. The government's decision to cut financial support for many of the lowest income households are going to put still more pressure on struggling families.

We know, for example, that the decision to restrict increases in benefits to just 1% for the next three years - well below the rate at which prices are set to rise - is going to have a deeply disproportionate impact on families with children.

Whilst around three in every 10 households are affected by the change, nearly nine in 10 families with children will lose out. The government's own estimates predict that this change alone will push around 200,000 into poverty.

Similarly, cuts to support with housing costs (particularly for families living in private rental housing), is likely to mean that families increasingly finding themselves squeezed into the most deprived areas, unable to find housing which they can afford elsewhere.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that rather than end child poverty, the number of children in poverty is set to rise by several hundred thousand by 2020. To reverse this trend, the government urgently needs to change course, to ensure that no child faces a childhood blighted by poverty.

And local authorities are increasingly going to find themselves having to make tough decisions, as localisation of support puts them at the frontline of welfare reform. From deciding who gets help with their Council Tax bills, through to making decisions about the provision of emergency support for families. Given this, it is crucial that the impact on child poverty is kept front-and-centre of every decision that every Local Authority makes.

All the main political parties are signed up to eradicating child poverty by 2020. As these figures show, we've got a long way to go. Unless the government and councils urgently change course and step up the fight against child poverty, we'll continue to condemn millions of children to a life of poverty.

Find out the child poverty rate in your local area using our interactive version of the End Child Poverty map on The Children's Society website.