THE Government has backed its promise to eradicate child poverty within a generation through a raft of measures aimed at breaking the cycle of educational failure and unemployment.
But studies published by the Family Policy Studies Centre and the United Nations Children's Fund reveal a growing gulf between rich and poor families, calling into question the effectiveness of Labour's strategy.
This week's spending review earmarked more than pound;3 billion on measures to try to close the gap.
Early intervention, support for vulnerable children and measures to keep young people in education and training are all part of the plan which cuts across Government departments and makes the voluntary sector a key player.
Chancellor Gordon Brown said: "The war against child poverty requires not just additional cash but the support and encouragement of all forces of care and compassion in every community."
Children's charities welcomed the moves but the Child Poverty Action Group warned that the schemes alone would not solve child poverty.
A slow start has not undermined the Treasury's faith in the Sure Start programme. It ill be expanded to 500 schemes by 2004, reaching a third of the 820,000 under-fours living in poverty.
Each programme will have to deliver measurable improvements in health and the ability of children to learn.
A new Children's Fund, worth pound;450 million over three years, will finance local authority and voluntary sector networks for youngsters at risk of drug abuse, truancy, exclusion, unemployment and crime. Specialist schemes attached to schools to support children and families in difficulties are part of the plan.
The Connexions mentoring service for 13 to 19-year-olds will be expanded, co-ordinated with growing mental health, housing and drug services, including a new National Treatment Agency for addicts.
Mr Brown also announced a pound;380m programme for children between five and 13 to bridge the gap between Sure Start and Connexions. And local authorities in the poorest areas are set to receive pound;800m through the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.
Increased opportunities in the arts and sport will be provided by a pound;485m funding increase the Treasury has allowed the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.