CHILDREN pay the price of growing up in poverty in terms of their health, their well-being and their life chances, but also the country as a whole pays the price.

Earlier this year, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) worked out that child poverty costs the UK £39.5bn a year, in terms of lost tax revenues, increased benefits payments and increased use of social services. That is up from £25bn in 2008.

So financially, it would be worth the country solving this problem.

However, putting a monetary size on the problem is rather demeaning to those individual human beings whose lives are disfigured by it, and CPAG’s analysis of Department of Work and Pensions figures shows that 350,000 children entered poverty in 2021-22 alone.

They show that in 2021-22, there were 4.2m children – that’s 29 per cent – in the country growing up in relative poverty, up from 3.6m in 2010-11.

Yet at the notorious Prime Minister’s Questions, in response to Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham, Rishi Sunak said: "It's this government that has ensured that across our country 1.7m fewer people are living in poverty… Not only that, hundreds of thousands fewer children are living in poverty.”

So the Prime Minister’s figures are at variance with the action group’s figures and the evidence of charities on the ground.

But just as the financial debate is demeaning, the one about statistics is completely meaningless to the children who in Stockton, through no fault of their own, were born on the wrong side of the River Tees. Whether the numbers are rising or falling matters not to those who immediately have their live chances diminished because of where they were born.

This is unfair and in a rich country like ours it must shame the government and also us for not being angrier about this blatant inequality.