ALMOST one in four Worcester children are in poverty - with the figures described as "shocking".

Statistics gleaned from national Government data reveals how 23 per cent of city youngsters are classed as poor, more than 4,000 children.

Worcester's rate is the second highest in Worcestershire, with only the Wyre Forest faring worse at 26 per cent.

It comes after a child poverty action group hit out over the rising tide of low paid workers, saying it is plunging too many families into problems.

Some city leaders are blaming it on the rise in poorly paid jobs, zero hours contracts and the benefits crackdown.

Councillor Joy Squires, Worcester City Council's deputy leader, said: "It's a truly shocking figure - many people will be very alarmed to hear almost one in four children in Worcester are in poverty.

"Part of the reason for this is so many people being in low paid work, and insecure work where it is very, very difficult for them to plan ahead.

"For so many families they never know from one week to the next how much money they have.

"And with the freeze in benefits and the cuts there, it is no surprise to see this."

Worcester's MP admitted there are "sharp" disparities between many parts of the city, but insisted the gap was closing.

"It reflects the fact that there are big disparities between areas like Rainbow Hill and Claines, for example, on income," Robin Walker said.

"That's been the case for a very long period of time, but wages have been rising and those at the bottom have generally fared better than those at the top.

"Of course we should aspire to continue to close this gap, but the irony is that when wages rise people fall into this bracket (being classed as in poverty) without anything actually changing for them."

The Worcester News has obtained a breakdown for each of the county's parliamentary constituencies revealing child poverty rates to be 17 per cent in Wychavon, 21 per cent in Malvern, 15 per cent in Bromsgrove and 22 per cent in Redditch.

It means more than 20,000 Worcestershire children aged under 16 are classed as poor.

The Child Poverty Action Group says nationally it has risen by 100,000 to four million, calling it a "burning injustice".

Two thirds of the youngsters come from working families, although it affects nearly half of single parent households.

Relative poverty is based on a household earning 'below 60 per cent' of the national median income of £26,300 after taxes and benefits.