MORE than four million children are now living in poverty - an increase of 500,000 in five years, the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation has claimed in a landmark report.

The charity calculates that in a typical classroom of 30 children, nine are now living in poverty.

The state of the nation report, UK Poverty 2018, examines how poverty has changed over the last 20 years, and is said to provide the most comprehensive and up to date picture of the challenges and prospects facing low income families.

It says that overall, more than a fifth of the UK population - about 14.3 million people - is in poverty.

“Of these, 8.2 million are working-age adults, 4.1 million are children and 1.9 million are pensioners,” it says.

The report says the rise is being driven by parents getting stuck in low-paid work with little progression, especially in hotels, bars, restaurants and shops, and the struggle to pay rising rents.

It says gains from the National Living Wage and tax cuts are being outweighed by changes to tax credits and benefits that top up low wages.

The foundation says that to stem the rise in poverty, reforms are needed to social security, housing and the jobs market, with the freeze on benefits and tax credits needing to end a year early next spring, and more employers could play their part by paying the real Living Wage and training their workforce so they can progress into higher-paid roles.

Foundation chief executive Campbell Robb said: “We are seeing a rising tide of child poverty as more parents are unable to make ends meet, despite working. This is unacceptable.

“It means more families are trapped in impossible situations: struggling to pay the bills, put food on the table and dealing with the terrible stresses and strains poverty places on family life.

“It’s time for us to decide what kind of country we want to be.

“As we leave the EU, we must tackle the burning injustice of poverty and make Britain a country that works for everyone.”