One in four children in Hyndburn are growing up in cold homes, according to shocking new figures.
A study carried out by The Children’s Society estimates that around 4,340 children are going cold in the borough - the third highest figure in Lancashire.
The charity also claims that thousands of families are not taking advantage of the government’s Warm Home Discount.
The discount provides a £135 annual rebate on fuel bills for some of the poorest families – enough to cover a typical family’s energy bill for a month.
The Children’s Society argues that this crucial support would help put an end to parents having to make harsh choices between giving their children a balanced meal and turning the heating on.
The figure for the North West as a whole is the second highest outside London and the South East, with 280,000 children missing out on the discount.
Research from the society also says cold homes can increase the chances of children having respiratory and other health problems.
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said he was ‘deeply worried’ at the figures.
He said: “Cold homes is something that has been of great to concern to me.
“When I wrote to school headteachers last year, they reported to me a growth in the number of children both hungry and cold turning up at the school gates.
“I am gravely concerned that when a family receives their heating bill, parents have to choose between feeding their children a decent meal and putting the heating on.
“This spring, the government has the opportunity to make sure no child has to grow up in a cold home when it reviews its fuel poverty strategy and consults on the future of the Warm Home Discount.”
Helen Bishop, deputy manager at the Maundy Relief charity based in Accrington, said the scheme could make a ‘real difference’ to struggling families in the borough.
She said: “I think the scheme will go some way to help families who are struggling to pay their bills. It can make a real difference for people who are choosing between heating their homes and feeding themselves.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “The scale of the problem, as these figures show, is truly appalling.
“The government must take decisive action now to move children in from the cold and help stop their parents from having to make this terrible choice between heating and eating.
“By making the Warm Home Discount automatically available to all children living in poverty, the government can give these families a lifeline to help them out of poverty, and they should do it now.”
To apply for the Warm Home Discount visit www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme. Alternatively people can go to Maundy Relief and pick up an application form.