Social mobility

Last November the No Turning Back Group of MPs decided we needed to do more work on how to tackle the problem of too little social mobility.?? By clicking <a id="p44" href="">here</a>??you can download a file which sets out my thoughts in this area.

As always, I welcome your feedback.


  1. Kit
    January 9, 2007

    I would also add time limited benefits. A lifetime quota of 3-5 years would stop people getting stuck in the benefit trap. (Possibly a retirement bonus if they do not use their allowance?)

  2. James Strachan
    January 9, 2007

    There are several obstacles to social mobility.

    The first is the very high taxation rates imposed on the low income group by the combination of tax and reduction in benefits. These amount to 70% just considering tax and tax credits, with further tax increases imposed by the removal of housing benefit, council tax benefit, free school meals etc.

    It's no wonder that low paid people cannot see a credible way of escaping this trap.

    The second trap is that, if you are in a council house and leave to seek work elsewhere, it is very difficult to find other social accomodation. Even if you qualify for housing benefit, public landlords have waiting lists years long. Private landlords will often not let because housing benefit is administered by local authorities which take months to make the first benefit payment. So you are trapped where you are.

    The third reason is family breakdown which is partly caused by a welfare system that pays more to a couple that break up than to a couple who stay together. While there are many profound reasons for failure of a relationship, a financial reward for breakup can sometimes tip the balance.

    The fourth reason is that the attitudes created by (1) to (3) inevitably affect the next generation. At the least, they are likely to believe that education and hard work produce no reward. More probably, they have no sense of self value, little home life and lead a chaotic life based on the values of street gangs.

    I come very close to believing that the predominant cause of poverty is now the Welfare State.

    These are generalisations and we should acknowledge and praise the many, many people who do rise above the circumstances in which they are placed.

    Don't take it from me.

    Have a long lunch with Frank Field.

  3. Bill
    January 9, 2007

    The problem with term limiting benefits is what do people do at the end of the term if their situation has not improved? Term benefits would only be effective if there were an associated work / education scheme to prepare people for the end of the benefit regime. If this isn't done we would only be feeding the underclass. Johns document is mostly ok for outlining the situation, but I feel it is weak when it comes to proposing solutions (perhaps these will be in part two?) How can society let pupils leave school without basic skills? How can society make kids feel that it is better to learn than to "doss around"? There are fundamental problems with society, and they are getting worse with each generation. Texting is fine, being allowed to use text language in a school essay as normal part of the writing (i.e. it is acceptable to use txt if that is what you are writing about – it isnt ok 2 use txt if u r rtingprose (get my drift?)) what happens in school is being directed socially instead of educationally. Education is at the root. If that fails, society will wither on the vine.

  4. Peter
    January 10, 2007

    It's worth being specific about what social mobility means in practice: the opportunity for bright children to use their brains to surpass their socioeconomic background. (It does also mean dim rich children falling behind, and if they do that's fair enough, but it's hardly an important part of policy to ensure they do.)

    I think one underexamined way to improve things for the former category is simply to make sure they cannot grow up too distant from well-stocked libraries. Even bad schools and a poor background could be little impediment to someone who has the intellect and intellectual curiosity to seek out knowledge. But what just might is the fact that public libraries, in the name of 'relevance', are increasingly turning into something more like noisy CD and DVD rental shops which also happen to loan out some books. I suggest people who care about such things go into their local library next time they get the chance and observe for themselves just how much floor space is now devoted to things other than book-lending. We really don't need a nationalised version of Blockbuster Video, but we do need a good library system, so why is the latter giving way to the former?

    Improving Britain's public libraries is of course no substitute for a selective or competitive education system, but with no party's leadership willing to propose grammar schools or vouchers at this time, sorting out libraries is at least politically possible here and now – and I rather think sceptics would be surprised how popular it turned out to be.

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