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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 13:02 GMT
Fifth of young 'in benefit homes'
Graffiti on a housing estate
The government is aiming to eradicate child poverty by 2020
One in five children are living in households claiming out-of-work benefit, according to government figures released by the Conservatives.

They say 2.2 million youngsters are affected, which means the UK has the Europe's highest proportion of children who live in workless households.

In some parts almost half were said to be in households dependent on benefits - 49.2% in central Manchester.

But the government said the rate was one of the fastest falling in Europe.

'Shocking indictment'

Minister of Employment Stephen Timms said: "We now have 450,000 fewer children living in workless households than a decade ago, and the rate is falling faster than any major European country.

"Since 1997, 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty. We are stepping up our efforts to get even more people into work and to abolish child poverty entirely by 2020."

But shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling said that the figures were a "shocking indictment" of the government's failure to tackle child poverty.

"Gordon Brown and his ministers are always claiming how much they have done - but the reality on the ground tells a very different story," he said.

"Worklessness is endemic in many communities, but even so, the fact that nearly half the children brought up in some areas come from homes entirely dependent on benefits is a figure that should bring shame to ministers.

"Particularly given the fact that so many people have come to work in Britain from overseas in the past 10 years," he said.

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