THE number of children who visited a Peebles food bank for emergency parcels increased by 107% between April and October this year.

Francis Mordaunt, manager of Peeblesshire Foodbank, says that between those months 203 children used the food bank, compared to 98 during that same period in 2019.

A recent report found that over 4,500 children in the Borders were living in poverty during 2018/19, up from 4,132 in 2014/15.

Asked whether Peeblesshire Foodbank has seen an increase in children using its services over the past years, Mr Mordaunt said: “Yes, we have noticed a steady increase in the number of children, particularly since the pandemic.

READ MORE: Free parking in Borders over festive period approved by council committee

“We sometimes buy baby milk to put in the parcels which are adapted to suit particular family situations.

“We’re trying to put in things children are more likely to want to eat.”

Nearly every local authority in Scotland has experienced increases in the level of child poverty during the past four years, according to the report commissioned by End Child Poverty, a coalition of over 100 organisations aiming to end the need for food banks.

The report used data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as well as income and housing figures for the area.

The data shows that 23.9 per cent of children under the age of 16 in the Borders were living in low-income families - those earning less than 60 per cent of the median income after housing costs.

‘After housing costs’ is the income available to a household once rent, water rates, mortgage interest payments, buildings insurance payments and ground rent and service charges are paid.

For a family of one adult and one child, 60 per cent of median income in 2018/19 was £268 a week.

READ MORE: Borders man admits stealing alcohol from Innerleithen hotel

On November 3, the Scottish Government announced that it would introduce a Scottish Child Payment for low-income families with children under six years of age.

Those who qualify will be able to apply for £10 per child, per week - equivalent to £520 per year - with no limit on the number of children the benefit applies for.

The first payments are being targeted for the beginning of February 2021, with all low-income families who have children under 16 benefitting by the end of 2022.

Mr Mordaunt, who has been the manager of Peeblesshire Foodbank for over five years, says he thinks the new benefit will help low-income families, as well as the recent increase in Universal Credit.

“We had a tremendous spike in the number of food parcels in April and May but it’s slowed down quite a bit,” he said.

“People on benefits just couldn’t afford to live. Benefits need to be higher.”

Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, John Dickie, says the plans to tackle child poverty in Scotland are “hugely welcome”.

“These new figures highlight the importance of keeping housing costs affordable, the importance of reviewing the value of the Scottish Child Payment and the urgent need to use existing payment mechanisms, like local authority school clothing grants, to provide extra financial support to families right now,” said Mr Dickie.