A CHILDREN'S charity boss who has raised £175,000 to send local families on holiday breaks says the extent of poverty he has uncovered in the area is shocking.

In the last five years Children in Poverty Inverclyde has organised breaks for 600 youngsters and their parents.

Now thanks to the generosity of more than 50 groups, organisations and individual donors another 200 children will get the same opportunity this summer.

Charity founder Pat Burke has been overwhelmed by the generosity of local people as well as the difference it has made to families.

But he told the Tele he has been taken aback at the dire straits some families find themselves living in.

Mr Burke said: "There is a real sense of despair and hopelessness.

"Quite frankly people lose their resolve and that impacts on the children

"They honestly feel like they are the great invisibles.

"Can you imagine what it would feel like to never have anything to look forward to, no hope or respite?

"I had no idea the despair out there in Inverclyde.

"It is truly shocking."

Former insurance salesman and business owner Pat was inspired to launch his organisation after a series of reports in the Tele about poverty.

Children in Poverty Inverclyde exists to send families on holiday to Hunters Quay.

They pay for week-long breaks, as well as transport, entertainment and food every Easter and summer.

They accept referrals from health visitors, schools and nurseries.

The charity also owns a holiday home, donated by the Morrisons Foundation.

Pat added: "Our aim is to do something positive, something that gives people hope.

"You need to make people feel good about themselves, to lift their spirits.

"We have had some amazing feedback.

"We hear again and again that it was the first family holiday they had ever had.

"One wee boy, who never speaks up in class, came back and was volunteering to help - he just gained confidence.

"It puts children on an equal footing with their peers - in the run up to the summer holidays, they can say they are going away as well.

"That makes all the difference in the world.

"We allocate the caravans in May and then the children know they are going on holiday."

Pat believes a lot more can be done to tackle inequality in Inverclyde.

He said: "We all have an underlying responsibility for each other.

"Inverclyde has a disproportionate number of poor people, with child poverty at its highest rate of 28 per cent.

"It's more important than ever to alleviate poverty and although we shall not be able to erase it completely we can try, and the impact of trying can be incredible."

As well as sending families on holiday Pat also runs a Christmas toy appeal, organises special events and panto trips with local people and a whole host of firms helping out.

This year Pat would like to say a particular thanks to Forsa Energy, Webhelp, RPC bpi, Sainsbury's, Greggs Foundation, Enchanted Forest Nursery and many many more for their backing.