The Government's adviser on social mobility has called on politicians from all parties to work together and combat child poverty after new estimates warned the UK will be home to 3.5 million poor children in 2020.
Alan Milburn said: "Willing the ends without the means today merely becomes a broken promise tomorrow. Across the political spectrum, party leaders now need to come clean about what they plan to do to hit the targets, or what progress they can deliver if they expect to fall short."
A report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission concluded there were positives in the Government's strategy in tackling child poverty, including the extension of childcare support for low-income families and a greater acknowledgement of the problem of working poverty than before.
However, it criticised a lack of any clear measures to assess progress and the absence of a detailed plan covering what needs to happen to jobs, wages and benefits to ensure poverty goes down.
Britain's plan to end child poverty is "doomed" to fail with the UK set to be home to 3.5 million poor children by 2020, the government's adviser on social mobility warned.
The Government's draft strategy for the next three years on tackling child poverty was a "missed opportunity" and fell short of what is needed to stop the numbers rising, a report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, chaired by former health secretary Alan Milburn said.
It was a "farce" and "particularly lamentable" that ministers had been unable to agree on how to measure poverty after rubbishing existing measures, Mr Milburn added.
The former Labour MP said: "The Government's approach falls far short of what is needed to reduce, yet alone end child poverty in our country.
"Our new research shows that the gap between the objective of making child poverty history and the reality is becoming ever wider."
Britain is "sleepwalking towards the highest levels of child poverty" since records began, a charity chief has said.
Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said:
The current all-party commitments to social security cuts in the next parliament combined with underlying labour market trends and inflation mean no party has a coherent plan to avoid this crisis.
Our political class is sleepwalking towards the highest levels of child poverty since records began while promising to eradicate it completely.
It's time our politicians face the scale of the crisis head-on and each party set out a concrete plan to get us back on track ahead of the general election.
Two-thirds of children living in poverty are part of working families, according to research.
Out of the 4,000 families quizzed by Save the Children, they found:
- The number of children from a working household living in poverty had risen by 12%.
- The UK now has one of the highest rates of low pay in the developed world.
- While showing that child poverty levels fell between 1998 and 2004, the report demonstrates that they stalled thereafter - even before the financial crisis.
- At least half of low-income families have seen their incomes decrease in the last five years.
- Around 70% had found it difficult to meet payments, with more than 40% saying they fell into debt as a result.
Five million British youngsters could be living in poverty by 2020, according to research from a leading charity.
In a report published by Save the Children, children were revealed to be the true victims of the recession, with families crippled by flat wages, benefit cuts and rises in the cost of childcare and food.
Nursery costs for a child under the age of two have shot up by 77% since 2003.
Food prices have risen more than the cost of any other product - increasing 19% more than the general price level of other goods between 2007 and 2011.
Despite a cross-party commitment to end child poverty by 2020, new projections show the numbers living in poverty could increase by 1.4 million in the same period - a rise of 41% on the 3.5 million children currently living in poverty, claims the report A Fair Start For Every Child.
The Prime Minister's social mobility tsar has criticised the Government's child poverty strategy saying it "sidestepped" the fact that the situation has been "stagnating".
Alan Milburn, the chairman of the Government's Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said independent projections expect child poverty to rise significantly by the end of the decade.
Writing in a blog on the commission's website, Mr Milburn called the new document "a list, not a strategy" that failed to engage with expectations that the 2020 target to eradicate child poverty "will be missed by a country mile".
He was joined in his condemnation by Labour MP Frank Field, who stressed the strategy "has learnt nothing from the mistakes of the past."
Mr Field said, "The bickering between the Chancellor and the Work and Pensions Secretary distracts from the crunch issue in tackling child poverty - what stops the poorest children from being up there with children from richer families when they begin their first day at school?"
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has released for consultation the Government's draft strategy to tackle child poverty over the next three years.
The strategy reiterates the Government's commitment to end child poverty by 2020 and promises to "tackle poverty at its source".
The new document lists a range of existing policies which might help children living in poverty, including:
- Reforming the welfare system through Universal Credit
- Providing free school meals for all infant school children from September 2014
- Cutting tax for 25 million people by increasing the personal tax allowance and cutting income tax for those on the minimum wage by almost two thirds
- Reducing water costs by capping water bills of low-income families with three or more children on a water meter
- Reducing fuel costs by reducing the typical energy bill next year by around £50 on average
Child poverty figures released by the Government in June 2013 show:
- In 2011/12, 2.3 million children in the UK were classed as being in poverty
- That means 17% of children were in poverty (before housing costs)
- After housing costs were taken into account, 3.5 million children were in poverty
- That amounts to 27% of children in the UK
There was no percentage change from the 2010/11 figures on both scales (before and after housing costs).
Over a third of children in Manchester, Middlesbrough, Belfast and Glasgow are thought to live in poverty, according to data.
End Child Poverty also pointed to six London boroughs, including Tower Hamlets and Westminster, as being rated in the 20 worst areas for poverty.
Some "60% of cuts" implemented by the Government hit working low-income families, causing a swell in the number of children growing up in poverty, an expert has told Daybreak.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) chief Alison Grantham said there was "a real challenge" facing working low-income families as they were struggling to make ends meat.