More than 3.5 million children will be living in poverty in the UK by 2020 - despite Government pledges to give poor kids a better life.
The Government has pledged to end child poverty within the next six years, but its own watchdog said that wasn't 'remotely realistic.'
The startling warning comes from former health secretary Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.
He has accused ministers of condemning large swathes of the current generation of children to be left behind in life by failing to come up with a more effective plan to get to grips with poverty.
He said it was not 'remotely realistic' that a drive to get parents off benefits and into work would enable the Government to achieve its target of ending child poverty by 2020.
And he said the Coalition's current plans to reduce inequality fall 'far short of what is needed'.
As a result, many children growing up today could face a lifetime of disadvantage, the Commission argued.
The warning, which came in submission to a consultation on the Coalition's new anti-poverty plans, states: "Our key conclusion is that this opportunity has not been taken. While there have been improvements in the Government's strategic approach and in some policy areas, overall the strategy falls far short of what is needed.
"This really matters: lower absolute income levels for large numbers of children are not just a statistical change but one that means more children will suffer real hardship that is likely to damage their well-being and their future life chances.
"Equally, if the living standards of children and young people at the bottom do not keep in touch with those in the middle, they suffer harm as they are increasingly less able to take part in society."
The Commission said that its own analysis found that it would require almost 100 per cent of all parents to be in work – something it said was 'far beyond what has ever been achieved anywhere in the world' – to achieve the target.
It said: "The Commission's research shows that ending poverty mainly through the labour market does not look remotely realistic by 2020."
Chris Goulden, head of Poverty Research at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "The Commission is right to sound the alarm bell on rising child poverty.
"In-work poverty is an inconvenient truth for politicians – affecting more than half of all households in poverty – and the safety net on offer to those who fall on hard times is increasingly threadbare.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society, said: "This will leave millions of children trapped in poverty. As the Commission rightly points out, the government needs to adopt an effective strategy which shows how it will meet its target."
But a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "Our strategy outlines plans to tackle the root causes of poverty, including worklessness, low earnings and educational failure.
"This approach is a better reflection of the reality of child poverty in the UK today and is the only way to achieve lasting change.
"Under this Government there are 300,000 fewer children living in relative income poverty and 100,000 fewer children in workless poor families.
"We have just seen the largest rise in employment for over 40 years and unemployment is falling. But there is more to do – and we are getting on with that job.
"The commission's own research highlights the weaknesses of the current child poverty measures – calculating poverty by income alone fails to address the issues which hold people back and that's what we're tackling."