The Government has been urged to draw up an emergency plan to help poverty-stricken children in Britain.
Figures revealing that 1.6 million youngsters live in severe poverty were condemned as a “national scandal” by Save the Children.
With unemployment rising and a shake-up of the welfare system, the charity fears the number of children living without the basics will rise unless action is taken.
Save the Children has analysed data for local authorities across the UK, which shows that in 29 areas more than one in five children lives in severe poverty. The charity found Manchester and the London borough of Tower Hamlets have the highest proportion, with 27%.
Of the UK nations, Wales has the highest proportion of children living in severe poverty (14%), followed by England with 13%, then Scotland and Northern Ireland which have 9% each.
To measure severe poverty, Save the Children combines both income and material deprivation. This means a single parent with one child aged under 14 on an income of less than £7,000 or a couple with two children under 14 on less than £12,500, and going without things such as separate bedrooms for older boys and girls, proper birthday celebrations and having friends round for tea.
The charity wants the Government to adopt this measurement because at present there is no official way to find out how many of Britain’s 13 million children are living in severe poverty. It is also calling on the Chancellor to announce an emergency plan in the next budget to channel new jobs into the poorest areas and increase financial support for low-income families.
Sally Copley, Save the Children’s head of UK policy, said: “Children up and down the country are going to sleep at night in homes with no heating, without eating a proper meal and without proper school uniforms to put on in the morning. No child should be born without a chance.
“It is a national scandal that 1.6 million children are growing up in severe poverty. If the Government is to fulfil its commitments on child poverty, it must find a way of counting these children in greatest need.
“At the moment, these children are hidden from official view, and their plight unrecognised.”