NEARLY 3,400 children in the Bridgwater area are living in families battling with poverty and debt, a shocking new study reveals.

There are 3,365 children from families struggling with mounting debts according to research by The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity.

A total of 16% of all families in the Bridgwater and Somerset West parliamentary constituency have now been classed as living in problem debt where they are behind by more than £4,000 in bills and payments.

Mark Hollidge, manager of The Bridgwater Foodbank, which helps families living in financial crisis, said he found the figures shocking.

He said: “Considering the population of Bridgwater is around £30,000 the fact that almost 3,500 of children are from families struggling with debt is a very large amount.

There must be something wrong in society for things to get to this level.

“We are very busy at the Bridgwater foodbank and often give away nearly a quarter of a tonne of food in the two and a half hour period we are open.”

Mr Hollidge said the foodbank was making an urgent appeal for more food donations as stocks were getting lower than he would like.

He said they needed about another 1,000kg.

The foodbank is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1pm to 3.30pm. Anyone who can help donate tinned or packet food should take it to drop off baskets in Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s in the town or take it to the foodbank itself at Mount Street Day Centre to the right of the cinema.

A national survey found almost two and a half million children across the country live in families owing a total of £4.8bn in bills and loans.

Further analysis of this research reveals for the first time the extent of the impact of debt on families in the South West.

It follows the launch of The Debt Trap, a campaign by The Children’s Society to lift the lid on the massive impact of debt on children’s lives.

Liberal democrat county councillor and Shadow portfolio-holder for Children’s Services Justine Baker said: “I’m not surprised the figures for Bridgwater are so high.

“It is well known that this area has high levels of deprivation and poverty.

“More needs to be done to support these families and I don’t think there is enough attention given to the problem.

“People don’t believe we have this level of poverty in leafy Somerset but Bridgwater is one of the most deprived areas in the country.”