In the vestry of St Barnabus Church in Wigan, the vicar is close to tears. “If I am honest, I am tired,” the Rev Denise Hayes says, serving hot tea against the bleakness of the weather outside. “I am tired of burying people who have committed suicide.”

Out in the church, a family lights candles for their son who has taken his own life. “He was only 33,” Rev Denise says. “But there’s only so much people can take. Only so much a community can take.”

She has seen it all in the year she has been at St Barnabus. The Church Urban Fund – set up to help impoverished areas – ranks her parish of Marsh Green as number 12,588 out of 12,660 suffering multiple deprivation. Child poverty runs at 45 per cent.“

It is wicked what this ­Government is doing,” says Denise. “We have children with ­hypothermia. We have had to open a satellite food bank because people were walking miles from town with bags of heavy tins. “None of the houses round here have carpets. You see sheets and towels on an asphalt floor. The levels of poverty are soul destroying.”

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