Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is to lead government efforts to
improve social mobility, he announced today. In a speech hosted by the
think-tank CentreForum, the Deputy Prime Minister also confirmed the
appointment of former Labour MP Alan Milburn to undertake independent,
annual reviews of progress towards a more socially mobile society.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that although budget cuts are needed,
the Government is committed to investing in a fairer future. In the UK,
a child’s future is still substantially driven by their parents’
occupation, income and education – rather than by the child’s own
talent, ability and effort.
Mr Clegg said;
“This Government is committed to the long term – to
making decisions today that will promote a better future: a more
prosperous economy, and a fairer society. Our determination to fix the
deficit is matched by our determination to create a more socially
He also said:
“I am acutely aware that it is very much easier to
declare political support for social mobility than it is to improve it.
If social mobility were improved every time a politician made a speech
about it, we’d be living in a nirvana of opportunity.
“This is a complex and contested area of both research
and policy. And action to improve social mobility will take many years
to take effect. In policy terms, it is like turning the wheel on an oil
“Promoting social mobility is a long-term business. And
it is precisely for that reason that it is vital to establish now, at
the beginning of our time in office, that promoting social mobility is
at the top of our social agenda.”
Mr Clegg said that social mobility was the key to a fairer society:
“My particular focus is on inter-generational social
mobility - the extent to which a person’s income or social class is
influenced by the income or social class of their parents. Social
mobility is a measure of the degree to which the patterns of advantage
and disadvantage in one generation are passed on to the next. How far,
if you like, the sins of the father are visited on the son.
“There is of course plenty of argument within the social
science community about precise measures, international comparisons and
preferred metrics. But I think intergenerational social mobility speaks
to most people’s definition of fairness.
“Fairness means everyone having the chance to do well,
irrespective of their beginnings. Fairness means that no one is held
back by the circumstances of their birth. Fairness demands that what
counts is not the school you went to or the jobs your parents did, but
your ability and your ambition.
“In other words, fairness means social mobility.”
The Deputy Prime Minister identified some of the key barriers to social
mobility, including differences in pre-school years; educational
inequalities; levels of parental involvement; the gap between Further
and Higher Education; and the difficulty for children from
disadvantaged backgrounds entering the professions.
Mr Clegg said that the Coalition has already committed to progressive
tax changes and reforms to the education system. However, more action
is needed if the Government is to address the long term challenge of
improving social mobility – especially in difficult economic times.
The Deputy Prime Minister will champion social mobility within
Government and chair a Ministerial Group to drive forward action across
Alan Milburn has also been appointed to provide an annual review of the
effectiveness of the Government's approach to increasing social
mobility, and the contribution of actions undertaken by civil society,
employers, community groups and other non-government organisations. He
is expected to build on his previous work as Chair of the Panel on Fair
Access to the Professions, but also to take a much wider view of social
mobility, particularly for the most disadvantaged in society. Detailed
terms of reference will be announced shortly.
Mr Clegg said:
“I am delighted that Alan Milburn has agreed to hold
us accountable for making progress on our social mobility aims. Across
the political spectrum we believe that every child, whatever the
circumstances of their birth, should have equal chances in life.
Alan’s appointment shows that this is not a party political matter.
“Our Coalition Agreement has already set out a large
number of reforms and programmes that will help improve the level of
social mobility in the UK. Our new Ministerial Group will help ensure
that these plans work together to raise social mobility. In addition,
I will ensure that as a Government we are addressing all the key
drivers of social mobility, particularly at those key points in a young
person’s life when they can become disconnected with the education and
wider support system.”
In his letter accepting the post, Mr Milburn said:
“The goal of an open mobile society where all have a
fair chance to progress is something that has motivated me all my adult
life...For me, the job of politics is to make that possible by breaking
down the barriers that prevent people from realising their potential. “
“In this new role I aim to fairly and independently assess
the progress each set of institutions is making to a United Kingdom
where there are more opportunities for people, regardless of their
starting point in life, to realise their aspirations.”