ALMOST half of children are growing up in poverty in several areas of Dudley, shocking new figures show.

In the St Thomas’s ward, 49% of youngsters are being brought up in conditions of financial hardship, say new statistics released by anti-poverty campaigners.

The figures reveal poverty is a problem across the borough, with more than a third (34%) of Dudley children enduring impoverishment.

That ranks the borough as one of the ten worst in the West Midlands – with Sandwell and Stoke-on-Trent (both 43%) topping the list, followed by Birmingham and Walsall (both 41%).

Areas in Dudley with the highest child poverty figures, which take housing costs such as mortgages and rent into account, are:

• St Thomas’s 49%

Netherton, Woodside and St Andrews 45%

• Brockmoor and Pensnett 43%

• Castle and Priory 41%

• Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood 41%

Brierley Hill 39%

A closer inspection of the borough’s figures shows that areas of Stourbridge and Halesowen tend to have lower levels, meaning much of the problem is centred in the town of Dudley itself.

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive at poverty charity Turn2us, said: “It is simply unacceptable that, in some constituencies, half of our children are trapped in poverty.

“Poverty means hunger – and children and young people unable to concentrate in school.

"It means being bullied for dirty clothes your family can’t afford to wash. It means sleeping with your family in rooms designed for one in hostels and temporary accommodation. It’s no childhood.

“The growth in child poverty shows no sign of slowing down and if the Government is serious about fixing this they must respond to these statistics with an ambitious child poverty reduction strategy."

The End Child Poverty coalition, which released the figures after research at Loughborough University, says child poverty is becoming the ‘new normal’ in parts of Britain.

Anna Feuchtwang, coalition chair, said: "We know what causes child poverty and we know how to end it.

"We know that the income of less well-off families has been hit by severe real-terms cuts in benefits and by higher housing costs.

"And we know that work alone does not guarantee a route out of poverty, with two thirds of child poverty occurring in working families.

‘Yet in many areas growing up in poverty is not the exception it’s the rule with more children expected to get swept up in poverty in the coming years, with serious consequences for their life chances."