One in five households where adults are classed as “key” workers has children living in poverty, according to new research.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said its study suggests that the number of key worker children growing up in poverty has increased by 65,000 over the past two years to nearly one million.

The analysis, undertaken for the TUC by Landman Economics, indicated that in some regions of the UK, more than two-fifths of children in key worker households are living in poverty.

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Key worker families in the North East of England have the highest rate of child poverty (41%) followed by the country's North West and London (both 29%), and the East (24%),

Scotland (8.3%) and Wales (8.9%) have the lowest rates, said the TUC.

The union organisation warned that another year of below-inflation pay rises for public sector workers will have a “devastating” impact on frontline staff after a “brutal decade” of pay freezes and cuts.

The TUC said its research indicates that real pay for nurses will be down by £1,100 this year, and by more than £1,500 for paramedics.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Our amazing key workers got us through the pandemic. The very least they deserve is to be able to provide for their families, but the Government is locking too many key worker households into poverty.

“Ministers’ heartless decision to hold down pay will cause widespread hardship and put the UK at greater risk of recession.

“After the longest wage squeeze in 200 years, we urgently need to get more money in the pockets of working families.

“This will help people get through this cost-of-living crisis and inject much-needed demand into our economy.

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“It is particularly galling that, as key workers are being told to tighten their belts, City executives are enjoying bumper bonuses.

“Once again ordinary working people are being forced to carry the can for a crisis made in Downing Street.”

Sara Ogilvie, policy director at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “These disastrous figures show the growing grip of in-work poverty on households across Britain.

“It’s an outrage that key workers, whose essential labour keeps our hospitals, schools and supermarkets running, are increasingly being pulled into hardship.

“Children are growing up in poverty as a direct result of cruel policy decisions, including harsh benefit rules like the two-child limit.

“With the cost-of-living crisis in full swing, the Government can no longer turn its back on low-income families and must address the long-term drivers of poverty in the UK.”