Department of Social & Policy Sciences

Secretary of State opens social mobility conference

Mon Apr 03 13:51:00 BST 2017

Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening MP, and former Cabinet Minister and Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Alan Milburn, spoke at an event in Westminster organised through our Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy (CASP) on improving policy responses to declining social mobility in Britain.

Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP

Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, opened the social mobility conference in London organised through our Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy and the Social Mobility Commission.


Organised by CASP with the Social Mobility Commission (SMC), the event 'Left-Behind Britain: Narrowing the Social Mobility Divide', brought together high-profile policy-makers with leading academics to promote a deeper discussion about the causes and consequences of worsening social mobility and child poverty in Britain.

According to its latest State of the Nation Report on Social Mobility, the SMC - on which Professor Paul Gregg is a Commissioner - warns that Britain has a deep social mobility problem; one which is getting worse for an entire generation of young people.

This suggests that the problems associated with declining social mobility are felt by whole tranches of middle- as well as low-income families, the so-called 'treadmill families' who are running harder and harder, but still standing still.

Drawing on the latest research, international comparisons and emerging lessons from policy, today's event in London will focus on how to close a growing geographical divide that has also seen many parts of Britain 'left behind' on social mobility. These include the 65 towns and cities identified by the SMC as 'coldspots' where prospects for education and employment are poorest.

Speakers discussed new local initiatives and responses to improve social mobility, and considered how recent research on intergenerational disadvantage can best be taken forward.

Ahead of the event the Rt Hon Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: "Social Mobility is arguably the most important and challenging issue facing British society today. How to make our country one where aspiration and ability, not background or birth determine where people get to in their lives.

Rt Hon Alan Milburn

Rt Hon Alan Milburn - Chair of the Social Mobility Commission.

 

"Tinkering with change will not turn it around. A new and far bigger national effort will be needed if progress is to be made on reducing poverty and improving mobility. That will mean long-term and fundamental reforms our country's education system and local economies, and in the labour and housing markets.

"Today's conference is aimed at developing a shared agenda for social progress to create more of a level playing field of opportunity. One that can unite educators and employers - indeed the whole nation - to action."

Professor Paul Gregg of the University's Department of Social & Policy Sciences who also sits on the SMC added: "For children educated in the 1980s, Britain had an unenviable record of being a society where a person's origins determined their destinies. Being among the least socially mobile countries in Europe and performing less well than it has had in previous generations, this has made social mobility a key issue for social policy in the UK.

"The policy challenge now is how all actors in society - from government to schools to employers - can best contribute to turning this around for the current generation of school age children."

The event is the sixth in a series of seminars organised by CASP and the SMC with funding and support from the ESRC and our Institute for Policy Research (IPR).

Organised under the theme, 'Child Poverty and Social Mobility: Lessons for Research and Policy', it follows a previous social mobility event organised in late 2015 which included contributions from leading US scholar and author of Bowling Alone, Professor Robert Putnam.