Fresh fears have been raised over the welfare of children in Banff and Buchan after a “shocking” council study revealed that child poverty in the area is almost double the Aberdeenshire average.
A report presented to councillors outlined that almost 20% of children in the community were classed as living in poverty in 2017.
The figures have ignited a political war of words, with the area’a Conservative and SNP representatives laying the blame at each other’s doors.
And the Child Poverty Action Group said action is needed from both the UK and Scottish governments to address the problem, while the council has formed plans to “break the cycle”.
The organisation’s director, John Dickie, said: “No family in the north-east should be missing out on the financial support and services they need to give their children the best possible start in life.”
The new figures show that 19.4% of youngsters in the area lived in poverty last year.
A child is classed as living in poverty when their household income is less than 60% of the area’s average, after considering housing costs.
In comparison, Aberdeenshire’s average is 12.59%, equating to 6,365 children.
SNP councillor Vicoria Harper is concerned that, without intervention, the effects of childhood poverty could follow youngsters throughout their adult lives.
She said: “If young people cannot afford transport costs, they can be excluded from participating in many of the opportunities offered by our schools.
“This will have a negative impact on their attainment and on their future employability.”
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, last night blamed Tory policies for creating the dire situation.
The SNP politician said: “Years of harsh Tory austerity cuts, including the bedroom tax and welfare cuts, have had a significant impact on the lives of people of all ages in the north-east.
“These figures are shocking but not surprising.”
North East Scottish Conservative MSP, Liam Kerr, responded: “I think the key to ending child poverty in Aberdeenshire begins with family housing.
“There is a lack of truly affordable property and some low earners are paying too much rent to keep a roof over their heads.
“The SNP is now five years behind on its promise to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021.”
The report given to the Aberdeenshire Council committee suggests that a long-term approach is needed to “break the cycle”, using early intervention and prevention.
A collaboration between eight Scottish local authorities, known as the Northern Alliance, has been set up to improve the life chances of children and young people.
Labour councillor Alison Evison, who sits on the local authority’s education committee, said: “This is an issue which we will keep under scrutiny to close the attainment gap across Aberdeenshire.”
End Child Poverty, a coalition of charities, previously revealed that almost 21% of children in the Banff and District council ward were living in poverty between July and September last year.