Nick Clegg welcomes Milburn social mobility and child poverty report

Oliver TwistPresenting a report laid before parliament today, the coalition’s social mobility tsar Alan Milburn said “child poverty is a problem for working families rather than the workless or the work-shy.”

Entrenched poverty remains a priority for action but transient poverty, growing insecurity and stalling mobility are far more widespread than politicians, employers and educators have so far recognised.

The nature of poverty has changed. Today child poverty is overwhelmingly a problem facing working families, not the workless or the work-shy. Two-thirds of Britain’s poor children are now in households where an adult works. The problem is that those working parents simply do not earn enough to escape poverty.

In its 350-page report, the social mobility commission makes a number of principal proposals.

Regional equity. All parts of the country to benefit from a balanced recovery, with action to reduce living costs and improve earnings.

Intergenerational equity. The government to ensure a fairer intergenerational share of the fiscal consolidation pain and, over time, reallocate public resources from the old to the young.

Young people. Long-term youth unemployment to be eliminated and NEEThood reduced below the European average. Half of all firms to offer apprenticeships and work experience.

Employers must provide higher minimum levels of pay and better career prospects, enabled by better skills. The professions to open their doors to a wider pool of talent by ending unpaid internships and recruiting more widely.

Pay and childcare. The Low Pay Commission to raise the minimum wage. Funding for childcare of higher-rate taxpayers to be reallocated to meet the childcare costs of those on Universal Credit. Early years’ provision to, in the long term, be universal and affordable. An effort to rebalance a long-held exclusive focus on institutional forms of childcare by doing far more to help parents to parent.

Education. Schools to adopt a dual-mandate of raising the bar on standards and closing the gap on attainment for low attainers. The government to provide better resources and incentives for teachers to teach in the worst schools. Top universities to widen their pool using contextual data and foundation degrees.

Responding to the report, Nick Clegg wrote in the Telegraph:

It is not every day that the Government welcomes a report that criticises the way things are being done and draws attention to a lack of progress made. But today I welcome [this report], which challenges us to do more to tackle these two entrenched problems in British society.

Social immobility is one of the most deep-seated and intractable problems in Britain today – advantage and disadvantage are passed on between generations, undermining individual and national potential, and at its worst, ruining lives. Changing this motivates me more than anything else. But, realistically, it will take decades of concerted effort to build a truly liberal society.

Social mobility is also about the desire of every parent that their children should do better than they did. There is a fear in Britain today that the credit crunch marked the end of a century of progress in which every generation lived better than the last.

I don’t believe we should simply shrug our shoulders and accept that. That is why we are determined to tackle the host of deep problems that governments have failed to address for decades: lack of house building; uncontrolled borrowing; a long tail of educational underachievement; low investment in energy infrastructure.

Nick Clegg concluded:

There remains a long road to travel. However, as growth returns, I believe Britain will be fairer, more balanced and more open than before thanks to the far-reaching changes we have begun.

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  • Helen Dudden 17th Oct '13 - 9:06pm

    If these children are not fed properly, they will soon start to develop things like the Victorians had.

    Much words ,little understanding, for those who go to bed hungry and cold.

  • Shirley Campbell 17th Oct '13 - 11:49pm

    In the context of “Liberalism”, no true Liberal would adopt the concept of “social mobility” – “classify and crucify”. Who, actually, sought to adopt these ridiculous classifications; furthermore, who, actually, sought to adopt the term “social mobility”? Personally, I have as much respect for the chap who empties my refuse bins as I have for my Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament. Respect for the individual, all souls are worthy, should be the rallying cry of true Liberals. Education, education, education for all and, yes, equal educational opportunities have been on offer for decades, but many seek non academic pathways, which, in many cases, has nothing to do with intellect and more to do with personality. Who and why do certain individuals seek to construct social divisions? I suspect that the agenda is one of financial worth.

    As an aged person, who many would seek to shoot, I apologise for any deviations from conventional “grammatical parsing” practices and the like but I am currently trying to get used to my new reading glasses and much is hazy.

  • jenny barnes 18th Oct '13 - 8:27am

    “social mobility” seems to me to be a concept mainly used by the lucky to claim that there good luck – of birth, talent, etc. – is the result of their own “hard work” and openness to opportunity. The reality is that many of us are 2 pay cheques away from destitution. Not so many in the government, though. Question – how does someone socially mobilise themselves from jobless on benefits to living on a trust fund and in government?
    I agree with Shirley. All jobs in society worth doing should be reasonably well paid – maybe a bit more for those who have spent longer training etc – but there’s no justification for the huge differences in wealth we are now seeing.

  • @HelenD Our nation has already largely adopted the Victorian views regarding the “undeserving poor” i.e those on welfare, along with constant reference to “hardworking families” to the exclusion of 2.5 million unemployed. I can remember when we were better than this. Joined the Lib Dems in the 80s to combat Thatcherism but……..??

  • Helen Dudden 18th Oct '13 - 9:03am

    @ Brian D. I understand, because I jumped ship from this Party as it grew into something that I could not cope with.

    How can children wait for the Nick Clegg idea on school dinners, or in fact, something that is in place already carrying the stigma of being poor. I know people who have two jobs to cope with what this Government is doing to them.

    My grandfather was in the General Strike in the 1920’s a miner who spent all his life underground, through war and peace he served his country. My grandfather, stood for freedom from those who tried to remove this from society.

    What is happening here is cruel and unnecessary.

  • Shirley Campbell 18th Oct '13 - 2:52pm

    It is interesting to note that an article on poverty, and the perceived worth of the working majority, attracts responses from the females of our species. Note the lack of highbrow male responses!

    For those who follow parliamentary debates, retired people and the like, I was impressed by the input of female MPs in favour of a consultation as to the effect of “zero-hours contracts” on the labourforce. Unfortunately, the majority of MPs voted against setting up a prescribed consultation on the negative effects of “zero-hours contracts”. Furthermore, it is gratifying to note that women MPs were seen to promote issues that affect the nation’s workforce and not just women.

    On the subject of “social mobility”, climbing the greasy pole, may I proffer a quote from the late John Lennon:

    “… but first you must learn to smile as you kill, if you want to be like the folk on the hill …”

  • Shirley Campbell 18th Oct '13 - 3:40pm

    Helen, George Orwell’s “The Road to Wigan Pier” should be compulsory reading in our nation’s schools. The prosperity of our nation was built on the backs of the people Orwell sought to engage with – with whom Orwell sought to engage. It is notable that men were compelled to crawl on all fours for anything up to three miles to reach a coalface. However, our nation’s schools seek to encourage, and engage with, fawning, fawning over the anoited ones and their – her- family. Waited on hand and foot for their entire lives while our people, the hoi polloi, struggle. So says a committed Republican. Please join, a democratic alternative to the monarchy. Please support the young bloods who have the interests of our people at heart.

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