More than 1,500 children in Hampshire are being looked after by the council, figures show.

While many of us will be tightening our belts this winter, charities are urging the public to give what they can – as thousands of young people across the country face a tough Christmas.

Figures from the Department for Education show 1,724 children were being looked after by Hampshire County Council as of the end of March.

Of these, 1,227 (71%) could spend Christmas in foster care, and 217 (13%) in secure units, children's homes or semi-independent accommodation.

The same data shows there were 617 children under 10 years old being looked after by the council, and 106 unaccompanied asylum seekers.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said Christmas can be "lonely and isolating" for children in care.

“Away from their families and their friends, often in places far from home; many will not have happy memories of Christmas,” he added.

Across the country, more than 80,000 children are being looked after by their local authority.

Two-thirds find themselves in the care of the council having suffered abuse or neglect – and the DfE’s figures show 591 did so in Hampshire.

Mr Hussain continued: “The best way to ensuring more children have safe and happy Christmases is to fix the care system.

“We need to see a big switch from a system geared to putting children into care, to a system geared to preventing the need for children to go into care in the first place,” he added.

This Christmas, Action for Children are asking people to donate to buy a healthy breakfast, warm clothes or a Christmas gift for a vulnerable child as part of their ‘Secret Santa’ campaign.

Up and down the country, many children will also spend the festive season facing the prospect of homelessness, or in temporary accommodation.

The most recent available figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show 24,290 households with children received homelessness duties across the country between April and June – including 304 in Hampshire.

This does not include figures for Basingstoke and Deane, which could not provide data on homelessness.

Kiran Ramchandani, director of policy and external affairs at the charity Crisis, said: “Every child should have a safe place to call home.”

“Yet with living costs continuing to rise at rapid rates and a severe lack of affordable housing, many families could be forced into homelessness and face spending years living in temporary accommodation.”

Nationally, more than 120,000 children were in temporary accommodation as of the end of June.

Ms Ramchandani urged the Government to raise the housing benefit and deliver "genuinely affordable" homes, or else risk more families being forced into homelessness this winter.

Crisis will be supporting the homeless over Christmas by providing accommodation, hot food and companionship at their Skylight centres across Britain.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said every child "deserves a safe and secure home".

They continued: “Local authorities have a responsibility to provide appropriate care for all children in their care.”

“We are supporting them by investing millions to create high-quality, safe homes for children - and removing barriers and reducing delays in adoption and improving the recruitment of foster carers,” they added.