Clegg: Lib Dem Social Mobility Commission “shatters the idea that Britain in 2009 is a free and fair society”

The Lib Dem website reports that the party’s independent commission on social mobility – set up by Nick Clegg the day after he was elected leader – has published its full report:

The Independent Social Mobility Commission, set up by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg and chaired by Barnardo’s Chief Executive Martin Narey, has found that a child’s life chances are ‘dependent on the background and earnings of its parents’. The commission’s report also found that increased education funding has failed to reach those children most in need.

The report sets out recommendations for improving the opportunities of disadvantaged children and young people across six key areas: child poverty, early years, education, employment, health and communities. In his forward to the report, Mr Narey argues:

We have recommended nothing that would not, in our view, make a significant difference to making the UK a better and a fairer place to raise our children. We have produced what I believe to be a thorough analysis of what might be done in the UK to boost social mobility through increasing equality of opportunity. We are however conscious that the cost of implementing many of our recommendations would be extremely high and implementation might take many years. We do not expect any government, particularly because of current restraints on public spending, to be able to implement all of our recommendations very quickly. But some of the recommendations do not involve significant expenditure and two of our recommendations, if adopted, would generate savings against current expenditure of £4billion a year which could be invested in significantly improving equality in the United Kingdom. And we are quite clear that, investment now which might, for example contribute to greater equality through reducing child poverty will save much greater government expenditure in the long term.

Nick has welcomed the report:

This expert analysis shatters the idea that Britain in 2009 is a free and fair society. Martin Narey and his colleagues deserve enormous credit for a report that cannot be ignored by anyone who wants a fairer Britain. It is an outrage and a tragedy that two children born at the same time in the same hospital should have wildly different life chances based simply on the income of their parents.

“We agree with the overwhelming majority of the reports’ recommendations, especially targeting resources in schools to those children who need most help, boosting vocational education for teenagers, and radically altering the tax credit system so it is focused on helping those families most in need.

“Whilst we do not agree with some other recommendations, such as the abolition of the 10p rescue package or the use of admissions ballots in schools, the report will considerably strengthen the commitment by Liberal Democrats to providing equality of opportunity to every child to succeed in Britain.

“This damning report shows that a child’s prospects are still tied to the circumstances of their birth. That is why we will make improving the prospects for all our children a key part of our election manifesto. I am immensely grateful to Martin Narey and every member of the Commission for producing such a powerful and well researched report on how Britain can be made a fairer and more socially just country for future generations.”

Note: the full report is available via the story on the Liberal Democrat website.

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  • Andrew Duffield 12th Jan '09 - 10:10pm

    As ever with these kind of reports, plenty of stuff on inequalities of opportunity and of income – and bugger all on inequalities of wealth.

    Some well-meaning recommendations, misguided in parts, but the poor really are doomed to always be with us at this rate.

  • David Heigham 13th Jan '09 - 1:49pm

    A solid report in its remit, and the recommendations are excellent in parts.

    But there are three fundamental problems in the way the question was put. Matthew Taylor has raised the first. What we want is not more random mixing of social position but more levelling up.

    The second point is that what we take as ‘class’ markers nowadays are almost entirely about who has had more or less education. Education is the main determinant of income, of health outcomes and percieved social ranking. To level up, we have to educate longer (and, preferably, better).

    The third point is that the principal determinant of success and staying on in education is the education of your parents, and the second determinant is the education of your classmates’ parents. Further, success in employment is closely linked to contact with others who have been successful. If we are serious about levelling up, there is no alternative to mixing much more in the communities we live in and in our schools. Segregated social housing for the deprived is deeply counter-productive.

  • I came from a one parent family as my mother died when I was 12, we had no money and my father came from a lower working class background and had an old fashioned “know your place” attitude. I went to University on a full grant in the 1970’s. I am now a successful IT Consultant. I have read the “learned” papers on social mobility and they miss a fundamental point:
    ANYONE who has a burning desire to succeed will find a way.
    You see everyone has access to education in this country, but many cannot be bothered or don’t see it as important. This can be due to peer pressures or parental attitudes. Their dreams are stolen.
    The best message on social mobility in my opinion was put forward by Margaret Thatcher promoting individual drive accomplishment and entrepreneurship.
    Social engineering begins with hearts and minds and personal desire. Education, legislation and any central programme provides the means of course.
    You can lead the proverbial horse to water though. What is fundamental to the lowering of individual social mobility in the UK is a lack of individual HOPE. In oneself and in the country/economy. It is related to CONFIDENCE, TRUST, BELIEF and therefore can be seen in the context of the overall economic climate. It is a shame that despite 10 years of “prosperity” such hope had already been lost for so many before the downturn happened!

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