MY breakfast has turned in my stomach several times this week at the sight of the morning papers.

While feeding my own cherubic little son his Weetabix, I found myself staring at a huge picture of a newborn child, still coated in protective fluids, with a giant cockroach crawling out of his mouth.

I know that Barnardo's, the children's charity that is desperate to get us to part with our cash and has produced this advert to illustrate child poverty, needs to grab our attention. But are these unrealistic images, straight out of an over-the-top horror movie, really necessary?

Cockroaches aren't that big and don't nest inside our mouths. The next day, there was a baby being injected with heroin, then another showing an infant drinking methylated spirits. People struggling to survive on a low income don't generally inject their babies with heroin, or give them neat meths to drink.

These pictures are not just shocking, they're insulting. Are we considered so callous and unfeeling that the only way to persuade us to care is to jolt our hard hearts with the advertising world's equivalent of the sort of electric shock the crash team in Casualty administers to the chest when a patient arrests and there is little hope?

Meanwhile, figures show babies born in Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Northumberland are more likely to die before they are one-year-old than babies born elsewhere in England, with poverty being the root of the problem.

While I am full of admiration for Barnardo's, and all the other charities which manage to raise around £30bn in the UK between them for good causes every year, using such revolting, exaggerated images trivialises the reality of poverty in Britain today.

So, if Barnardo's is successful with this campaign, what comes next? Pictures of cold, dead bodies, or worse? There is a danger people will remember these images, but not take on board the message behind them.

Charities can tug at my heartstrings all they want. I just wish they'd leave my stomach, and my breakfast, alone.

WE parents are constantly being admonished for mollycoddling youngsters nowadays, by not letting them out to play in the streets or to roam as freely we did as children. But some statistics I came across this week appear to justify our parental caution. In 1953 there were 797 child fatalities on the roads compared with 179 in 2002. This isn't the result of more careful driving but because we are now more vigilant and regard the streets as too unsafe to play in. Yes, we are guilty of stifling our children's sense of adventure but at least we can argue that we do it for good reason.

I AM delighted to hear the Countess of Wessex is being kept in hospital for longer than planned to give her a chance to bond with her baby, and I wish her a thorough and speedy recovery. I just hope that the sort of devoted care Frimley Park NHS hospital has displayed in this case extends to single mums returning home to a cramped council flat, with other children to care for and no maids, butlers or nannies on hand to ease the burden.