Deidre Brock MP

Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith

Social mobility policies badly failing young people

Social mobility policies badly failing young people

The Government's Social Mobility Commission's recent work was so damning that I suspect that the Commission will not be long for this world

Two decades in which there has been no progress

Twenty years where the only movement seems to be backwards.

I should say that from my brief look at the research papers that it appears that Scotland isn't included in the analysis – I don't know whether I would have found the references to Scotland and, indeed, to Wales and to Northern Ireland, if there had been more time but it seems to be mainly a body of work referring to England.

Scotland, of course, has her own Government and Parliament to take forward far more progressive policies – so progressive that Labour copied Scottish policies wholesale into its manifesto for the recent general election and was praised for being radical.

Social mobility, though, depends on a whole lot more than the devolved powers can deliver; it depends on easy access to benefits, a helping hand to make a better life for yourself through education and, perhaps, starting your own business, it needs a good health service and good housing and it needs a cohesive society.

It needs the opportunities to be available so it needs an economy which works in the best interests of all of us rather than just a few. It needs an attitude from government which encourages new enterprise instead of protecting those who already have money.

Real social mobility requires an expansive and open attitude to the world – it needs the kind of attitude that would embrace the EU and immigrants and the opportunities that both bring. Social mobility needs parity of esteem between people and that seems to be in pretty poor supply in this place.

Let me turn briefly to the research from the Commission, though – it's research that says that both Tory and Labour Governments have badly failed the people they were elected to represent.

I was particularly taken with the stalling of the ambitions of young people or – to put it in brutal capitalist terms, the waste of that great resource of youth.

Wages for young people now lower than they were in 1997 – lower, for goodness sake, when they should be building their lives and the economy should be benefiting from their frittering away of a decent disposal income before they have serious financial commitments eating it all up. And that's before you talk about the damage that carrying a huge student loan does to people's prospects.

Young people not in education employment or training still at the same levels – a valuable workforce wasted sitting on the sidelines whiling their lives away.

Retention and graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students barely improved.

Careers advice and work experience opportunities are disappearing, apprenticeships going to older workers rather than younger workers – generation after generation being failed by the paucity of ambition of governments who thought it more important to curry favour with the wealthy and the privileged and who left this fabulous resource untapped.

Short-sighted at best, cruel and thoughtless more likely.

Social progress and social justice require social mobility.

Governments, parliaments and politicians fail if we do not facilitate that.

None of us are blameless while generations are left idle or unengaged, none of us can be blameless while people are not encouraged to aim higher and all of us are made poorer when we fail to let the next generation dream.

We have considered the policies of successive governments on social mobility and we've found them wanting.

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Monday, 20 May 2019


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