SCORES of Swindon children will be left cold and hungry this Christmas because their families cannot afford the basics during the school holidays.

Government figures analysed by Action for Children revealed that 71,726 children aged 10 and under across the south west are living in materially-deprived, low-income families.

The charity estimates that this means three children in every primary school class around the region will struggle through the festive season without essentials like food and warmth.

Primary schools around Swindon make an effort to support some of the town’s poorest pupils.

A Drove Primary School spokeswoman said: “We donate food left over at the end of term to Booth House, provide food bank vouchers to families and support Gateway Church in Westlea, which gives food and water to help families in need.”

The Swindon Food Collective sees a spike in demand over Christmas as families struggle to afford three meals a day for their children.

Manager Cher Smith told the Adver: “There’s huge pressure on families at the moment, from high rent and bills, as well as school holidays where there are no free lunches or after-school clubs.”

New research from Action for Children suggested that parents below the breadline are able to spend on average just £2 a day per child on food and that the average primary school meal costs £2.30 a day if not provided for free.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Mary Martin said: “It is very important to me that every child in Swindon has access to the basics of food, warm clothes and a heated house.

“The borough supports this through our housing and social services departments and the government prioritises to ensure those in most need receive support.

“Many schools across the borough offer breakfast clubs. We recognise that food banks provide a valuable service which is why we facilitated the transfer to a new provider when it was at risk of closing.

“This report provides useful data to help us continue to support those most in need.”

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for south Swindon Sarah Church said: “A situation where children go hungry in a country as well off as ours cannot be tolerated.

“A quarter of children in south Swindon alone live in poverty and most are in working families.

“The system isn’t working. Families need secure and well-paid work, they need to be supported out of poverty and services like Sure Start which are proven to improve their lives need to be brought back.”

Justice secretary and Conservative candidate for the South Swindon Robert Buckland said: “As MP for the last nine years, I have been working very closely with a range of organisations and many constituents to ensure everyone who is entitled to government help receives the relevant benefits, for example warm energy grants at this time of year.

“Poverty has fallen since the Conservatives entered government in 2010. This is supported by our strong employment record.

“There are 3.7 million more people in employment than when we entered government. This means, on average, 1,000 people have gone into work each and every day since 2010.

“There are over a million fewer workless households, and around 730,000 fewer children living in workless households compared with 2019.

“We are working to ensure that work pays. We want to eradicate low pay altogether, with the pay of a full-time worker on the national minimum wage rising by £2,750 a year since 2016.”