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Government response to child poverty and social mobility challenge - more pace, drive and ambition needed

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Child Poverty, Social Mobility, Social Mobility and Child Poverty, Uncategorized
Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn

Last October, the Commission published our first State of the Nation report – a 350-page anatomy of the many challenges faced  in making  Britain a fairer place. In it we sought not just to describe the raft of programmes being put in place by government and others to tackle child poverty and improve social mobility but to reach an assessment of their likely impact.  We focussed particular attention on the impact of the decoupling of economic growth from earnings growth and the likely long-term squeeze on public spending

Our pessimistic conclusion was that despite a lot of activity and good intentions, the scale and depth of activity was insufficient to move Britain forward to become a low poverty, high mobility society. Far from being on track to meet the statutory goal of ending child poverty by 2020, the government was set to miss the target by more than 2 million children. Despite considerable effort, social elites had not been opened up. Youth unemployment and falling living standards were storing up trouble for the future. We foresaw a danger that social mobility – having risen in the middle of the last century, then flatlined towards the end – could go into reverse in the first part of this century.

To avert these outcomes we set out a wide-ranging set of recommendations.  Chief among them were for Government to commit to eliminate long-term youth unemployment; to develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce in-work poverty that asked more of employers; and to ensure a fairer intergenerational share of the pain of fiscal consolidation.

Five months on, the government has published its response. It’s something we’ve been awaiting with interest - not so much for what it says about our individual recommendations but as a litmus test of the seriousness and commitment with which Government is approaching these issues.

Looking across the response, there are some good things in the document. I welcome the fact that the Government shares much of the Commission’s diagnosis of the challenges, including the importance of ensuring work pays, the role of business in opening up opportunity and the priority accorded to closing attainment gaps in schools.

There are also positive measures on some of the specifics.

We called for an early years premium and the government has committed to this step.

The government has announced improvements on youth transition including a move towards introducing a UCAS for ‘the other 50%’.

There is also welcome progress on helping low earners with childcare costs.

Overall however, the response is disappointing. Too often it defensively reasserts what government is doing rather than suggesting renewed momentum towards a high mobility, low poverty country.

Action on low pay is limited to the government’s submission to the Low Pay Commission and fails to even mention the Living Wage.

The steps set out following the Heywood Review on youth transition are welcome but we are still very far from the large-scale transformation needed to drive down long-term youth unemployment.

The draft child poverty strategy, published last month, is a missed opportunity: it is a list of policies rather than the detailed step-by-step plan required to meet the tough challenge of ending child poverty by 2020 and the continued inability of government to develop additional measures of child poverty to supplement existing measures that it claims are "discredited" is unacceptable.

More mobility and less poverty need pace, drive and ambition. They should be the guiding stars by which the whole of government navigates. But its response is characterised by too much timidity and too little energy.

This October we will publish our second Annual Report. It will assess whether economic recovery is being accompanied by social recovery. The government says that social mobility is the primary goal of its social policy, that it is committed to end child poverty – in short, that we’re all in it together. We will look for evidence it hasn’t forgotten what that means.

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  1. Comment by Harry Alffa posted on

    A simple Minimum Wage Escalator (a la fuel duty escalator) would provide forward guidance to business, and Vacuum Down money from the top "earners" in companies to the lower paid - where else is the money going to come from? It's the same money that was supposed to reach the exploited via Trickle Down.

    The obvious objection to be made by those with zero concern for humanity and all concern with themselves is that there isn't enough growth to "afford" this. Even if you ignore the case, and real world examples*, for saying that making the poor slightly less poor means the whole economy benefits, it is still extremely easy to get the economy growing - again the evil & those in the pockets of the banks will bluster & protest - simply link banker top-rate income tax to the percentage level of unemployment, and make the bank-levy a simple presentation to the banks of the cost to the state of funding Jobseekers allowance.
    Now bankers don't have magical tax-avoidance powers - their propagandists in the media made great play of the statistic that they pay 10% of all income tax paid - so income tax is not easily avoided by them.
    But we provide a means by which they lessen their tax bill - invest in the real economy for jobs.

    Tying the financial sector to the real economy like this leads to a more stable system over time - exactly the opposite of the system as it is being run today, despite the lessons that should have been learned from the crash.
    Financial sector "divorced" from real economy? Yes, it is. Does the existence of this phrase as an axiom suggest that this is a bad thing? Yes.

    I assert that policy idea will "instantly" grow the economy via SMEs, and that this in turn will give confidence to big businesses hoarding cash to spend on R&D, as well as daring to expand.
    This is a virtuous circle.

    Over time the financial sector will change from one gambling and ripping wealth from the real economy to make unreal profits for a few, to actually doing what it is meant to do - service the real economy.

    States That Raised Their Minimum Wages Are Experiencing Faster Job Growth

  2. Comment by Mr. R.D.V. Kite posted on

    Acknowledging the report concerning social mobility and related employment selection, I believe the question is much more extensive than hitherto disclosed and dealing with background and selection methods being used by companies.

    Since 2011 I have been trying to obtain consideration of the problems encountered by young folk and the real obstacle is in the commonly used on-line recruiting system, which discriminates in such a way that obtaining an interview is, in a great number of instances, determined not by review but by what can only be described as the tick box system. With this, if tick is not found in a selective box from the on-line system computerised analysis, the candidate is de-selected and is unable to be interviewed, even if they could fill the post requirements.

    Unless we have this exposed, the inequity of the methods now used by most companies in Britain, then we are in serious danger of becoming the most backward and ineffective industrial lost country in the world.

    What I want, is to highlight the problem and make sure a viewpoint is broadcast far and wide, because it is a national disgrace and our political entity ignores the circumstances which are evident. Furthermore, the system being adopted leads to specified selection as indicated by my understanding, as reported in the document presented by the commission.

    Even contacting the commission as I did on 15th June, 2015 my opinion was treated as not worthwhile and yet, I recruited and set up in the mid 1970's the initial manning and utilities operation of a major oil field in the North Sea. If I cannot get a hearing, having been a senior engineer in a major company for some 33 years, then what hope for young folk!