Commission calls for major reform to heal divides in society

28 Jun 17

Successive administrations have failed to improve social mobility for the past 20 years, a report from the government's Social Mobility Commission has found.

The commission, a non-departmental advisory public body that monitors social mobility, has called on the government to enact “deep-seated” reform to bridge the gap between “haves and have nots”.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “For two decades, successive governments have made the pursuit of higher levels of social mobility one of the holy grails of public policy.

“While there has been some progress, it has not gone far enough towards translating welcome political sentiments into positive social outcomes.”

Today’s report examines four life stages from the early years and school through to training and further/higher education and then into the world of work.

It found that previous governments all failed to achieve the highest, green rating on these measures.

Both early years and schools were given an amber rating, while young people and those of working age received a red. Overall, only seven policies score a green while 14 score amber and 16 red.

The study praised the efforts to increase employment, which has now reached a record high, as well as initiative to get more working-class people into university.

However, the report concludes too little work has been done to break the link between socio-economic background and social progress as new divisions between parts of society have widened.

Milburn stated: “What is so striking about this new analysis is how divided we have become as a nation. A new geographical divide has open opened up, a new income divide has opened up and a new generational divide has opened up.

“If we go on like this, these divisions are set to widen, not narrow. There is a growing sense in the nation that these divisions are not sustainable, socially, economically or politically.”

In March a report from the Sutton Trust found that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to get into top-rated schools.

Rosamund McNeil, head of Education at the National Union of Teachers, hailed today’s report as an urgent reminder of the “desperately unbalanced nature” of UK society.

She called on the government to tackle the school funding crisis as a way of ensuring poorer children have a chance of getting ahead in life.

McNeil said: “Well-funded, high quality education is one vital part to reducing inequality and alleviating child poverty.

“It is equally important that policy makers look at the broader findings of the report about the root causes of poverty: endemic low pay; stagnating wages; lack of job security, and an inability to afford decent housing.”

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