A councillor has called for more support for Weymouth and Portland families after new figures show that one in seven children in Dorset are living in poverty.

Cllr Clare Sutton, Dorset councillor for Rodwell and Wyke, says a "shocking rise" in food prices has created a "crisis" for low-income families with children to feed.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show more than 9,000 children in Dorset were living in relative poverty in the year ending April 2022. Relative poverty is defined where household income is 'a certain percentage below median incomes'.

This means that 16 per cent of children in the area were in a family whose income was below 60 per cent of the average household income and claimed child benefit and at least one other benefit.

Of these children, 6,962 were living in absolute poverty, where household income is 'below a necessary level to maintain basic living standards'.

Cllr Sutton said: "I’m really sorry to say these numbers come as no great surprise, but they are shocking.

"I heard on the radio yesterday that the price of a typical food shop has risen by a shocking 17.5 per cent in the past 12 months. For families on a low income with children to feed, this really is a crisis. 

"Clearly the situation for many children and families has worsened significantly following the pandemic and, now, the cost of living crisis.

"There needs to be greater focus on Weymouth and Portland, not only on factors which directly affect children, like SEND support and the quality of provision at our local schools, but also on the wider economy. We all know wages here are amongst the very lowest in the country.

"I do believe Dorset Council is taking steps in the right direction but resources need to be concentrated and, where possible, good quality jobs located, where they are most needed."

Weymouth councillor John Orrell said the figures "should be shocking" but that they are "not a surprise".

Cllr Jon Orrell said: "The situation for young people, particularly in the major towns, is not great.

"The pattern is of educational underachievement for many. Those who pass exams tend to move away and not return. We lack skilled jobs with professional salaries since the loss of the navy base and Winfrith.

"There is plenty more that could be done to help our children. Supporting the hard-pressed schools that cater for the most deprived towns would help. Re-opening Sure Start centres. We also need a major investment in new technology. Wind, wave and tidal power could provide many decent jobs for our young people.

"The current situation is bleak, with a decade of austerity, then covid closures and now a cost of living crisis, made worse by profiteering firms."