Parts of Britain in ‘social mobility cold spots’

29 Nov 17

Some parts of Britain “are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially”, according to a report into social mobility.

The report, published yesterday by the Social Mobility Commission, painted a stark picture of life for people living in what the report called social mobility ‘cold spots’, where wages are lower, there are far fewer high-quality jobs and commuting times are longer. 

Nearly two-thirds of the best performing regions for social mobility are in London and the south east, while Britain’s former industrial heartlands offer the fewest chances for people to improve their lives, the report said.

Its analysis of all three hundred and twenty-four local authority areas in England found that half of the areas in the East Midlands, and a third in the West Midlands, were cold spots.

The report also examines Scotland and Wales but to a lesser extend because there was different and less data on these countries. 

Coastal towns in England were found to be suffering, with some now “entrenched social mobility cold spots”.

Although the commission stressed that the picture is much more complex than a ‘north/south divide’, it estimated that there is a £6bn funding gap between London and the North.

In a series of recommendations aimed at local government, the report called on all local authorities to become accredited Living Wage employers.

Local authorities should also subsidise transport for disadvantaged young people in isolated areas, it argued, and Local Enterprise Partnerships should be encouraged to offer career support for young people.

Alan Milburn, the commission chair who once served as a government minister under Tony Blair, said that “the country seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division”.

“That takes a spatial form, not just a social one. There is a stark social mobility lottery in Britain today.”

Milburn added: “Tinkering around the edges will not do the trick. The analysis in this report substantiates the sense of political alienation and social resentment that so many part of Britain feel. A new level of effort is needed to tackle the phenomenon of left behind Britain.”

The report highlighted the essential role of education in improving social mobility, and recommended using Pupil Premium funding on evidence-based new interventions.

This was echoed by Sir Peter Lampl, the chair of The Sutton Trust, who said: “We need to make sure that children have access to high quality teaching by recruiting more good teachers and most importantly raising the game of the 450,000 teachers already employed.”

He added: “The Education Endowment Foundation’s Research Schools are playing an important role in doing this in the government’s Opportunity Areas, regions where social mobility is very low.

“They’re helping to break down barriers so that research doesn’t stay on the pages of academic journals but has a real impact in the classroom.”

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