The number of pensioners living in poverty has risen for the first time in a decade, new figures show.
Official statistics show that 200,000 more elderly people were classed as poor in 2006-7 than the previous year, leaving almost one in three in poverty.
It comes amid record food, fuel and council bills, which are rising at a faster rate than pensions and leaving increasing numbers struggling to cope.
The figures also showed that the number of poor children has risen for the second year running by 100,000, with a third now living below the poverty line.
Campaigners said it was a "moral disgrace" that so many people are unable to make ends meet in one of the world's richest countries, and called on the Government to make sure the poorest pensioners receive the benefits they deserve.
Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern, said: "It is a national disgrace that pensioner poverty levels have begun to rise.
"Older people have been hit particularly hard as living costs have gone through the roof - half of those affected by fuel poverty alone are pensioners."
Mervyn Kohler, special adviser for Help the Aged, added: "When older people live on a fixed income it is virtually impossible for them to pull themselves out of poverty.
"Pensioners often have to cut back on essential household items just to survive. This is a disgrace."
A household is deemed to be below the poverty line if its income is less than 60 per cent of the national median. For the latest figures, this means that a couple with no children who earn less than £226 a week are classed as poor.
When Labour came to power in 1997, there were 2.9 million poor pensioners after rent and mortgage costs are accounted for.
This figure which had been reduced to 1.8 million last year but which now stands at 2.1 million.
When looked at before housing costs are taken into account, the number of poor pensioners is the same now (2.5 million) as it was when Labour came to power and is higher than it was in the mid-1990s.
There were 4.2 million children classed as poor in 1997. By 2005, after a decade of pledges and new benefits systems intended to cut poverty, the number of poor children had been cut to 3.6 million.
But last year the figure rose by 100,000, and this year it has risen again. It is now at the same level as it was five years ago.
In 1999 Labour pledged to halve poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.
Ministers admitted the numbers published by the Department for Work and Pensions were "disappointing" but insisted they would drop next year once increases in benefits announced in last year's Budget take effect.
Stephen Timms, the Employment and Welfare Reform Minister, said: "We are committed to tackling poverty and providing opportunity for all and these figures confer with the very substantial progress over the last decade to large numbers of pensioners and children lifted out of poverty in relative and absolute terms.
"But we have heard that over the last year or two we have on some levels slipped back."
It was also claimed that the number of poor pensioners may have increased because the impact of a one-off £200 payment to help with council tax bills made in 2005 had now ended.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, said: "These figures are proof, if ever proof was needed, that Gordon Brown and his Government have quite simply run out of steam and run out of ideas."