PARENTS of the one in five Borders children living in poverty can now claim an additional £25 towards the cost of school uniforms and shoes.

The local authority had previously provided grants of £45 for each child - among the lowest of any council in Scotland.

Following this week's meeting of elected councillors it was agreed to increase the payments to £70 with immediate effect.

Donna Manson, service director for children at Newtown St Boswells, highlighted the problems being faced by many families in the region.

She told the meeting: "The child poverty rate in the Scottish Borders has increased from 11 per cent in 2011 to 21 per cent in 2016, according to the research reported by the Child Poverty Action Group In Scotland.

"These figures, when considered within contexts such as fuel poverty, rural accessibility costs, low wages and high private renting housing costs, highlights that there are many children and their families experiencing significant barriers every day in getting children to school and ensuring the children and young people can experience all the learning opportunities on offer in the Scottish Borders."

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland estimates that the average cost of sending a child to school is around £800.

And that 71 per cent of parents across the country struggle to meet the costs.

Back in 2009 a Scottish government working group recommended that all local authorities provide a minimum of £70 towards uniforms and shoes for each child from a family living in poverty.

Some councils raised the grants to as much as £120 but Scottish Borders Council froze its payments at £45.

Last year 1,397 claims were made to help a total of 2,355 children.

And it is expected the number of payments will be even more this year as poverty numbers continue to grow.

Ms Manson added: "Following discussions at the recent head teacher training programme on child poverty it became apparent that there was a need to look at the payments currently made to parents and carers to fund clothing."

Figures compiled by the local authority show that the Hawick and Denholm ward has the highest percentage of children in poverty at 28.73 per cent and that Tweeddale East is the lowest on 10.01 per cent.

In Tweeddale West the poverty figure is 14.78 per cent, in Galashiels and District it is 23.61 per cent, Selkirkshire is 27.17 per cent, and Leaderdale and Melrose is currently 14.53 per cent.

Research has found that children living in poverty, on average, are up to a year behind pupils from higher income families in vocabulary and problem solving.

They are also two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer chronic illness and three times more likely to suffer mental health problems.

A wider approach by education officials and head teachers to tackle child poverty in the Scottish Borders is currently being developed.