A youth worker chained himself to a bench in Weymouth town centre to highlight what he claims is 'shocking' poverty in the area.

Tom Lane, principal youth worker at Steps youth club, was handcuffed to a bench in St Mary Street yesterday from 10am.

Speaking to the Echo during the morning of the protest, Mr Lane said: "Already we've spoken to two different families with quite serious problems with poverty - a mum and young daughter, and a young family with a two year old. The father is on a zero hours contract, and Universal Credit left them without money for a long time."

Mr Lane - who has worked at Steps for 25 years - is protesting as a resident after seeing an alarming rise in the number of poverty-stricken youngsters.

He said: "Over the past ten years at Steps we've noticed an increase in young people attending with a range of specific problems linked to poverty.

"Some are indirect issues, such as exclusion from education, involvement with drugs and mental health. "However we're also seeing young people turn up hungry because mum's got no money, or they've got no money.

"The cupboards are bare."

As reported previously in the Echo, government data revealed 30 per cent of children in Weymouth in Portland now live in poverty – rising to 39 per cent in Weymouth East and Melcombe Regis, and 43 per cent in Underhill, Portland.

Meanwhile, the Office of National Statistics revealed that in 2017, Weymouth & Portland had the lowest average wages in the UK at £282.90 a week.

Mr Lane added: "The statistics are absolutely shocking – nine children in every classroom are living in poverty.

"Nationally we're seeing a return of Victorian era childhood diseases such as rickets and scurvy, caused by vitamin deficiency through malnutrition.

"We're seeing very skinny kids, as well as a rise in obesity which is linked to poor diet.

"It's not because they're deliberately making poor choices - cheaper foods are often the ones jam-packed with sugar and fat."