William Eichler 28 June 2017

Decades of Whitehall policy has failed to improve social mobility, commission finds

Decades of Whitehall policy has failed to improve social mobility, commission finds

Two decades of Government efforts to improve social mobility have failed to reduce the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, report reveals.

The Social Mobility Commission, an independent body that monitors progress on social mobility, found successive Governments have failed to tackle inequality and warned that without ‘deep-seated reform’ the country’s divisions will only widen.

The report, entitled Time for Change, noted that some policies, such as increasing employment and getting more working-class young people into university, have been beneficial.

However, it concludes that overall ‘too little’ has been done to break the link between socio-economic background and social progress.

The commission looked at four life stages from the early years and school through to training and further/higher education and then into the world of work.

It gave ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ ratings depending on how successful Governments have been in translating policy into positive social outcomes.

The commission was not able to give a single ‘green’ rating to any of the life stages, and only seven policies scored a ‘green’ while 14 scored ‘amber’ and 16 ‘red’.

The report called on Whitehall to develop a strategic cross-departmental social mobility plan which will help to make social mobility the cornerstone of domestic policy.

It also called for a long-term approach to improving social mobility. This might include the implementation of 10 year targets and the introduction of a new social mobility test for public policy.

The commission also recommended that future budgets should identify how public spending addresses geographical, wealth and generational inequalities.

Whitehall should also be more active in building a national coalition with councils, communities and employers to improve social mobility.

‘For two decades, successive governments have made the pursuit of higher levels of social mobility one of the holy grails of public policy,’ said commission chair Alan Milburn.

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

‘In fact, what is so striking about this new analysis is how divided we have become as a nation,’ Mr Milburn continued.

‘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.

‘There is hunger for change. The policies of the past have brought some progress, but many are no longer fit for purpose in our changing world. New approaches are needed if Britain is to become a fairer and more equal country.’

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