More than 15,000 children are living in poverty in Wiltshire, new analysis reveals.

The End Child Poverty coalition, which commissioned the report showing almost a third of children across the UK live below the breadline, said families were already on a ‘cliff edge’ before the coronavirus pandemic.

The research combined recent figures from the Department for Work and Pensions with local housing costs to produce new estimates for low-income families – those earning less than 60 per cent of the median income.

The analysis shows 18,283 children living in low-income families in Wiltshire in 2018/19.

This means 19.4 per cent of all those aged 16 and under are living in poverty, though this was a decrease on 2014/15, when it was 22 per cent.

The report is based on DWP data from March and estimates of the effect of housing costs on poverty rates by Loughborough University's Centre for Research in Social Policy.

The figures show little improvement in child poverty rates across the South West since 2014-15, with last year's highest rate in Torridge (32.6 per cent).

Across the whole of the region, the average rate was 26 per cent.

In Wiltshire, the number of children in low-income families fell from 20,197 in 2014/15, to 18,283 last year.

The coalition is calling on the government to recognise the scale of the problem and its impact on children’s lives.

Buttle UK – which provides financial support direct to families and young people in crisis – has increased its spending by 145 per cent across the South of England since lockdown started compared with the same period the previous year.

Joseph Howes, CEO of Buttle UK, said: “These new figures allow us to understand the true picture and unacceptably high levels of child poverty at the start of lockdown in the South.

"With the government putting in new measures to control Covid-19, we need to brace ourselves for further bad news and what could be a massive increase in child poverty and ultimately a lost generation.

“Not all families were the same going into this crisis and they will certainly not be the same coming out. As we attempt a recovery from the crisis, there are going to be some very big challenges facing the most vulnerable sectors in society."

Across the UK, the proportion of children in low-income families rose from 28 per cent to 30 per cent between 2014/15 and 2018/19.

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of ECP, said: "The children affected are on a cliff edge, and the pandemic will only sweep them further into danger.

"An ambitious plan to put this shameful situation right would be transformational for millions of children."

ECP are calling on the UK government to uprate housing assistance in line with inflation, abandon the "unconscionable" planned cuts to Universal Credit, end the benefit cap and the two-child limit on benefits, and increase child benefit.

A DWP spokesman said there are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty than in 2009/10, which is a measure against median income in 2011 rather than the current level.

He added: "Making sure every child gets the best start in life is central to our efforts to level up opportunity across the country.

“We have already taken significant steps to do this by raising the living wage, ending the benefit freeze and injecting more than £9.3bn into the welfare system to help those in most need.”