The number of babies that Carlisle parents are claiming child benefit for has fallen significantly, figures reveal.

Anti-poverty campaign group Turn2Us said parents being unable to register their newborns during the pandemic is likely the main cause of the large drop seen across the UK.

HM Revenue and Customs data shows families were receiving the benefit for 850 children less than one year old in Carlisle, 660 in Allerdale and 465 in Copeland, as of August last year.

This was 15% fewer than at the same point in 2019 for Carlisle, while two per cent fewer for Allerdale and five per cent fewer for Copeland compared to a rise the year before.​

The fall among children less than one was the largest of all ages.

Across the UK, the number of child benefit claims for infants fell by 9% to 513,445, which was also the biggest decrease of all children up to 19.

HMRC says lower birth rates may have been a factor, but the previous year's drop in claims for children aged less than one was just 4%.

Many councils paused birth registrations during the pandemic, meaning parents have been unable to obtain a birth certificate which is needed to claim child benefit – the money paid to those responsible for bringing up a child.

Though HMRC did allow parents to do so without one, Turn2Us said this is likely the main reason for the "significant drop" in claims for babies.

Sara Willcocks, head of external affairs at the charity, said: "While child benefit can be backdated up to three months, it is a serious concern that so many new parents might have missed out on hundreds of pounds.

"Over the last decade, child poverty has risen dramatically and we have seen baby banks pop up across the country as so many parents struggle with the costs of raising a child.

"This is why it is vital parents claim all the support they are entitled to."

The anti-poverty group has called on the Government to increase child benefit by at least £10 per child per week, and publicise the scheme more widely to increase uptake.

The benefit is increasing from £21.05 to £21.15 for the eldest child from April 12, and from £13.95 to £14 per week for each subsequent child. In Carlisle, the figure fell from 20,825 to 20,650 between August 2019 and last year.

An HMRC spokesman said it is important that new parents remember to register for child benefit, even during these "unprecedented times".