CHILD poverty is on the rise in Inverclyde with fears it will get even worse as the Covid-19 crisis deepens.

With many job losses expected locally in the coming months, council leader Stephen McCabe has warned that the potent mix of the pandemic, welfare cuts and funding shortages for the local authority will make things even worse for low income families.

More than 3,000 children in Inverclyde live in poverty - a rise of nearly two per cent in the last five years - according to the latest research.

Councillor Stephen McCabe, who has been the council leader for the last decade, says it is time for a fundamental shift from both the UK and Scottish governments to put more money into people's pockets and lift families out of deprivation.

Councillor McCabe said: "Sadly these figures are not a surprise and it will get worse with Covid-19.

"If we don't get to grips with it, it will go on and on.

"We will continue to have health inequalities and all the other issues that come with it.

"More young people's lives will be lost to addictions.

"There is no doubt we need a real national strategy from both governments.

"The UK Government's welfare cuts mean less money for people and the Scottish Government has continually cut budgets for local authorities.

"We need more money to be directed to areas like Inverclyde, where poverty is high, to be distributed by the local authority and our partners."

The new figures, published by the End Poverty Alliance are based on research by Loughbourgh University.

They show that after the number of children living in poverty has increased by 1.7 per cent since 2015.

Five years ago the number of children living in households trapped in poverty was 2,904 and it now stands at 3,013.

In that time Universal Credit has been introduced, along with a housing benefit cap, a two-child limit on benefits and other controversial reforms.

Local measures introduced to combat those reforms include free school meals for all primary schoolchildren from P1 to P4 in Inverclyde, as well as increases in clothing grant payments and extra money during Covid-19.

But Councillor McCabe said: "We need a fundamental shift in the way we tackle wealth inequality.

"We need a fairer redistribution of wealth with the better off paying more taxes.

"That is the only way we can deal with child poverty - we need to put more money in people's pockets."

The Scottish Government is set to introduce a new Scottish child payment, which has been delayed to February.

But anti poverty charities Barnardo's and Action for Children warn that more families face destitution and have called for action.

Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan says his party's government, in power since 2007, are doing all they can to alleviate poverty.

He added that he has written to the UK Government, challenging them to end the five week wait for Universal Credit.

Mr McMillan said: “One child living in poverty is one too many.

“The new Scottish Child Payment will see eligible children under six entitled to £10 per week additional support from February 2021, with all under 16s benefitting by the end of 2022.

"If the payment is taken together with the Best Start Grant and the Best Start Food Support Payment, an eligible two-child family will be provided with around £10,000-worth of support in the early years of their children’s lives.

“I wrote to the DWP Secretary of State recently, during Challenge Poverty Week, to urge her to remove the five-week wait for Universal Credit.

"This is harming families right here in Inverclyde and making people turn to foodbanks, something that was almost unheard of before the Tories came back into power a decade ago.”