The Government must take urgent action to end the stagnation of social mobility or leave inequality entrenched in the UK from “birth to work”, a new report warns.
It calls on ministers not only to provide extra funding for older teenagers in education, but also to extend free child care to ensure more low income families benefit.
What Is Social Mobility?
Social mobility describes the movement of individuals, families or households between different social strata in a society. It marks a change in social status relative to the status they may have been in previously.
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There is a strong relationship between high levels of income inequality and low levels of social mobility. This means that children who have parents in highly paid jobs are more likely to go on to have highly paid jobs themselves. Meanwhile, children whose parents are in low income positions will also go on to have low income positions.
Fair and equal access to education, childcare and support services is an important part of keeping social mobility in action.
What Is The Social Mobility Commission?
The Social Mobility Commission was set up in 2010 to monitor economic and educational inequality in the UK. However, following Theresa May becoming Prime Minister in 2016, all of the commissioners resigned because they felt the Government was too focused on Brexit.
New Chair Dame Martina Milburn said she felt there was now a “real commitment” from the Government, but feared that social mobility is on the verge of growing worse.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “There’s still a big shift – if you want to be socially mobile – towards London.
“I think you’re three times more likely to move to London if you’re from a professional background than if you’re from a working class background.”
What Were The Key Recommendations Of The Report?
The report recommended that the government provides a “significant increase” in funding for all 16 to 19 year-olds in education. They must also provide a special “student premium” for disadvantaged students to ensure they have equal access to education.
It asks the government to extend the current offer of 30 hours of free childcare a week to cover households where one parent is working eight hours a week. At the moment, a parent must work at least 16 hours to be entitled to the childcare.
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It also suggests that the government agree to pay the voluntary living wage to all of its employees, contracted workers, cleaners and catering staff.
The voluntary living wage has increased to £9 an hour for staff in 2019. It is calculated based on rate of living costs in the UK.
How Has The Government Responded To The Report?
The government has responded to say it will consider the findings of the report.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Damian Hinds welcomed the “thorough” report, but stopped short of confirming that the Government would adopt its recommendations, arguing that social mobility was “a very difficult thing to move”.
He added: “We are supporting pupils to thrive at every stage – setting a 10-year ambition to boost children’s early reading and communication skills, transforming technical education and providing coaching for young jobseekers.”