An alarming number of children in Bridport are believed to be living in poverty according to new figures.

A report by charity End Child Poverty estimates that around thirty per cent of under-16s in and around Bridport are now living below the breadline.

This is equivalent to nine children in a class of 30.

The report uses government data to predict poverty levels and the charity warns that children affected by poverty achieve 28 per cent lower GCSE grades than their better-off peers.

Bradpole and Bridport North has around thirty per cent of children said to be from families who are struggling and Bridport South and Bothenhampton has 29 per cent.

Cllr Dave Rickard, leader of Bridport Town Council, has branded the latest figures “appalling” and “shameful”.

He said: “These are shocking figures, and a reflection of the lack of support for families with children.

"In recent times we have seen the roll out of Universal Credit in Bridport, and huge reductions in government funding that have resulted in services for children being decimated. Community organisations do what they can, supported by the town council, but we need to see a steep change in thinking from Westminster and restoration of funding to Dorset Council so that appalling and shameful statistics like this can be reversed.

“How is it that one of the wealthiest areas in the sixth richest country in the world, can let its young people and struggling families down so badly?’

"What makes it even more concerning is that further cuts to our new struggling Dorset Council will only serve to exacerbate this shameful situation.”

Bridport Town Council’s environment and social wellbeing committee will consider the report at its meeting on June 5.

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: “We try to support children in Dorset by offering help early on, before they reach crisis point. One way we’re doing this is through family partnership zones. These bring together professionals who help children and young people in their local area, including social workers, teachers, police officers, GPs, health visitors, local businesses and others. We also link to voluntary and community groups such as food banks.

“We also offer free childcare places for two year olds and take up of this is above the national average, hovering between 80 and 90 per cent.

“Acknowledging that there are multiple causes of poverty and child poverty, support works best when these people come together with a family to look at their whole situation rather than just the one problem they can help with."

End Child Poverty says it uses the same research method as the Office of National Statistics. According to the charity, information such as the unemployment rate is used, among other data, to map patterns of child poverty.

However, employment is not a reason. According to Anna Feuchtwang, chairman of the End Child Poverty Coalition, two thirds of child poverty occurs in working families.

"The income of less well-off families has been hit by severe cuts in benefits and higher housing costs", she added.

"Growing up in poverty means growing up trapped. It restricts a child’s chances of doing well at school, of living a healthy and happy life, and of finding well-paid work as adults. We urgently need the government to set a course of action that will free our children from the grip of poverty."

The research indicates there has been a one per cent rise in child poverty across west Dorset.

It highlights the divide between the county's most affluent and those who are unable to make ends meet.

Oliver Letwin, MP for west Dorset said: "The figures show west Dorset has one of the lowest rates for child poverty.

"But, as median incomes begin again to rise, the number of households with children whose income is below 60 per cent of the national median income has been rising — and this is just one of the reasons why we need to create more jobs with higher wages in west Dorset."