CHILDREN are going hungry in North Swindon, according to the boss of a Pinehurst charity.

And the chief executive of youth mentoring group SMASH, Helen Fisher said it was a growing problem.

“The main thing we are seeing is that more of the children we work with are hungry when they come to us,” she said.

“More and more our mentors are meeting up with children, and one of the first things they they need to do is go and get food for the child,” Mrs Fisher added.

“We are literally seeing an increasing need for us to feed children as part of our work,” said Mrs Fisher.

This comes after the Adver published statistics showing neighbouring Penhill has the highest level of child poverty in Swindon, with 42 per cent of all children living in poverty.

Figures from the End Child Poverty coalition revealed across Swindon, a quarter of children live in hardship.

“The statistics are shocking. It shouldn’t happen, but the reality is that it is,” said Mrs Fisher.

“However the situation does provide us with some opportunity to educate children, for example about nutrition and balanced diets when taking a child to get food.”

Penhill and Upper Stratton Ward Councillor Claire Crilly, said: “There are activities taking place in Penhill to support children, but there is a lot more that needs to be done by the government and Swindon Borough Council.

“One of the key reasons why poverty is so high is the increasing cost of housing. We need more affordable homes for Penhill families.”

She pointed to zero-hours contracts, the 'bedroom tax' and changes to benefit levels as having real impact on Penhill.

“The only way to address these is ultimately through changes in government policy,” said Cllr Crilly.

The councillor highlighted efforts by the community and parish council to tackle child poverty.

Mrs Fisher added: “It is important people know there are organisations helping to alleviate these problems. If they know there are institutions doing something, then they feel there is a way for them to help.”

SMASH supports 100 children each year in Swindon, with seven members of staff and 60 volunteers from its base at Pinetrees Community Centre

It provides weekly mentoring sessions for children as well as after school clubs and group sessions.

It helps children develop self-esteem, confidence and resilience.