Almost one in three children in Wales were living in relative poverty, even before the coronavirus pandemic began, according to the latest data.

A record high of 4.3 million children in the UK were living in relative poverty (in families that earned  below 60 per cent of average household income) in the financial year 2019/20, according to statistics published by the Department of Work and Pensions.

This suggest an increase of 4.1 million from the previous year.

In Wales, this represents an increase of 31 per cent - which amounts to 195,000 children.

The number of people living in poverty in UK also hit a record high in the year to March 2020, with 14.5 million individuals estimated to be in in the "relative low income" category. These latest figures show there are million more in the year up to March 2020 than there were in 2009/10.

Melanie Simmonds, head of Save the Children in Wales, said it was “deeply disheartening” to see such a significant rise in child poverty even before the pandemic hit, warning that the impact of the crisis on families’ incomes have forced many to cut back on essentials, with ‘far reaching consequences’ for children.

“What’s more, these statistics won’t give us the full picture of the impact of Covid and how much worse these figures will potentially be in another year’s time.”

“As a result of the crisis, thousands more will have been pulled into poverty through job losses or reduced income. Behind the statistics, there are too many families who struggle financially, day in and day out, with far reaching consequences for their children."

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Ms Simmonds said that Save the Children had repeatedly heard during the pandemic from families living on low incomes and how they have had to cut back on essentials such as food, heating and clothing for children, and were sinking deeper into debt.

“Many parents also didn’t have the tools, resources and skills to adequately support their child’s learning and development at home which, led to a lot of stress and anxiety.”

She added that action must be taken “at all levels of government” and urged teh Westminster governemnt to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit for another year, to prevent plunging families into “deeper dire straits”.

The charity head also called on the next Welsh Government to deliver “strong and ambitious leadership”, and produce a plan to limit the impact of poverty on children’s development.

“The role of Welsh Government and local authorities in the next five years will also be crucial to make sure we are going in the right direction in reducing child poverty,” she said.

“In order to ensure we can all work together effectively, the next government needs to produce a Child Poverty Delivery Plan - with clear measurable milestones and ambitious targets  - to reflect these impacts and so ensure that no child is disadvantaged because of family income.

“It is has been an overwhelming and stressful time for families already struggling on a low income, and we cannot risk plunging even more families into poverty. These latest figures should be the catalyst that the government needs to make supporting struggling families and giving every child the best possible start a priority right now.”