5 April 2011
A new strategy to ensure everyone has a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, was published today by the Deputy Prime Minister.
The strategy, Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers, focuses on inter-generational social mobility: ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to do better than their parents. It aims to tackle unfairness at every stage of life with specific measures to improve social mobility from the Foundation Years to school and adulthood. The Government has also published its child poverty strategy, Tackling the causes of disadvantage and transforming families’ lives. A year after the Child Poverty Act it, sets out how the Government will transform people’s lives by breaking the entrenched cycle of deprivation.
As part of this agenda, a new Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission will be established, strengthening the role of the Child Poverty Commission in holding the Government to account. The Commission will report to Parliament and monitor and drive progress towards ending child poverty, improving life chances and increasing social mobility.
To set up the new Commission we will amend legislation, and in the interim period, will broaden the remit of the current Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility, Alan Milburn, to include child poverty.
A set of key indicators has been included in the social mobility strategy, for the first time defining how social mobility is measured so that the Government can see where we are having the most impact and need to adjust the approach. These indicators will be included in departmental Business Plans, so that social mobility is placed at the heart of Whitehall policymaking.
The stark facts on social mobility are:
In contrast to previous approaches, the social mobility strategy sets out progressively to tackle the causes of poverty rather than just the symptoms. The social mobility and child poverty strategies provide a powerful spring-broad for progress towards creating fairer opportunities for everyone.
The Deputy Prime Minister said:
Fairness is one of the fundamental values of the Coalition Government. A fair society is an open society where everybody is free to flourish and where birth is never destiny.
"In Britain today, life chances are narrowed for too many by the circumstances of their birth: the home they’re born into, the neighbourhood they grow up in or the jobs their parents do. Patterns of inequality are imprinted from one generation to the next.
"A recent report by the Sutton Trust estimated that the economic benefits of improving social mobility could be worth £140 billion a year by 2050. This is not only a question of fairness – opening up opportunities is in the interests of the economy and of the country.
"There is no particular age when the cycles of disadvantage can be broken. The opportunity gap has to be addressed at every stage of life, from early years to working age. And Government cannot do it alone. Employers, parents, communities and voluntary organisations all have a part to play.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, said:
The legacy of worklessness and benefit dependency can be seen in the millions of families across the country who find themselves abandoned to the margins of society. Work is the best way for these people to take control of their lives, fulfil their potential and encourage their children to do the same.
"The welfare system must be dramatically reformed so that instead of working against people, it helps them take advantage of every available opportunity. We will reform welfare to enable families to work their way out of poverty through the Universal Credit and with the Work Programme we will provide the training and skills employers need so those on benefits can compete in the workplace for the first time in far too long. We are also extending the number of apprenticeships available and helping more people take up the chance of work experience.
Minister for Science and Universities David Willetts said,
Universities cannot be a tool for social engineering. But we can expect them to look at students’ potential, not just what they have already achieved. That way their commitment to the highest academic standards itself drives social mobility as well.
"While a degree is an excellent investment in your future, it is important that recruitment into the professions is made more fair and transparent. The lead the government has shown in reforming civil service internships should be widely taken up across the private sector, ensuring Britain is using all the talent available.
The Child Poverty strategy sets out the framework to tackling child poverty from 2011-2014 and provides a new approach for ending child poverty by 2020. It is a comprehensive plan that focuses on a broad set of policies that target the drivers of poverty and incentivises action. It is a strategy founded on the understanding that poverty is no just about income and must also build the wider life chances of children to increase opportunity and aspiration.
The Child Poverty Strategy `also focuses on increasing the life chances of children by supporting families and raising aspirations. Policies include:
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:
Every child deserves a happy life free from poverty and free from fear. Children face too many difficulties in today’s Britain. In this strategy we re-commit ourselves to ending child poverty by 2020 and breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage that has blighted children’s lives and aspirations for too long.
“We know that the early years of a child’s life are critical to their success in adulthood which is why we will measure progress on child development, infant health and school attainment. This is in addition to reforming Sure Start, early years education and our school system to focus resources on the most disadvantaged children and families. And we are adding an indicator of severe poverty alongside the income targets in the Child Poverty Act so can see whether we are properly targeting the most disadvantaged.
“Today’s publication of the Child Poverty Strategy is an important milestone, but it is only the start. The government’s future strategies will say more about how every child can be given the support they need to succeed, and show how we can genuinely transform the lives of children and families.
Notes to editors