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April 05, 2011



Social mobility is important. It makes us feel better and shows ourselves and others that we have moved forward in life.

Tom Freeman

Clegg says that "our social mobility drive is aimed at helping the majority of people to move up the rungs of the ladder of opportunity". Unless he proposes moving the minority at the top down to the bottom, this will be mathematically impossible.

The belief that one can address social mobility by only looking at upward movement amounts to declaring that 'all shall have more prizes'.


"the key components of a more mobile society which do not appear to be related to simple measures of income equality"

My guess is that the Lib Dem contribution was to delete the comma before 'which'.


Social mobility is much more than income.

Luis Enrique

I don't understand your opposition to equal opportunity, your reasons look like letting the perfect be the enemy of the good to me (e.g., following your 'undesirable' link, it's "not meritocratic"; compared to what?).

Whether social mobility or equal opportunity is a worthy policy goal is not to be decided by imagining a state of perfect equality of opportunity and then finding some faults with that imagined state. It's about whether we want to move our messy world in that direction, or not. Imagine a bright kid from a poor background. It's always going to be harder for this kid to become a QC then for a similar kid from a rich background - the questions is: how much harder? I'd like that difference to be smaller rather than greater, and I can't really believe you don't.

You're quite right about downward mobility. I'm not sure trying to dream up policies that attack parents' efforts to do the best they can for their children is the right idea, but policies that disrupt the transmission of advantage (i.e. inheritance tax) look good to me. My half-assed guess is that life chances are (increasingly?) about soft-skills (being presentable, eloquent, well mannered, confident) and expectations, which have a great deal to do with one's background, and I'd have thought these transmission mechanisms are hard to "combat".

I share your suspicion that focusing on social mobility serves as a way distracting attention from inequality, and I think you're right that if you want to increase social mobility then reducing inequalities of wealth and power would be a good start. I agree we ought to be more concerned about the shape of the distribution than with the extent to which individuals move around within it.


I wondered if you had looked at this:
and what you thought of it.

Incidentally, without denying that Westminster School is outrageously expensive, I would point out that the "3 times" higher figure is based on the boarding fees, but most pupils do not board so pay less.


Chris, your comment about spending on state eeducation spending versus private eductaion missing something rather more fundamental, the actual amount spent on the front line delivery of eductaion is much lower because private schools bypass much of the overlapping layers of bureaucracy that filter out state cash before it actually gets to the school.


I agree, surely it makes no sense to spend millions on social mobility when you don't have the houses and good jobs to satisfy the newly mobilised. Whitehall must know this, so it's pure political posturing. Far better to tell the truth "If you live in a sh**hole we will do nothing to help you, get as good an education as you can and emigrate as fast as you can".


Hi. I have an annual income of less than £12000 per year- and have just lost £900 per year from my tax credits. I can't go back to work outside the home(I work from home at moment), because the childcare cuts and housing benefit cuts mean that I would be even worse off than I am now.

Each week food prices go up, and it is more and more difficult to buy enough food to last the week. The VAT rise has nearly crippled us, and I am beginning to wonder if it will be possible to stay in our house. It has become progressively more difficult to get by over the last year or so.

If I leave this house and community, my daughter leaves her school. A good school- with her friends. I lose the ability to work outside the home full stop because we wont be anywhere near the people around us who ensure that I can work. But my rent would go down from about £500 per month, to £350. (I cant maintain a claim to housing benefit because my earnings are too unpredictable, and the conditions for claiming leave me really struggling to work and not find myself in hot water risking committing fraud- my claim only ever lasts a couple of weeks, and it becomes a full time job just trying to keep the claim maintained because of the level of information they require about my ongoing earnings).

I am not a gymslip mum- I am a qualified professional from one of the very low paid public sector 'professions' worst affected by the cuts, and while my daughter's father and I are seperated he is a good dad. This doesnt mean he can take financial responsibility,. In order to be a good dad he works 4 days a week, which makes him less able to financially support him. He buys her shoes and clothes, and all the things I cant buy for her.

I am a writer, and luckily because my stuff is printed by various publications I can keep at least a steady stream of cash coming in- even if it is a small stream. This means I can claim tax credits instead of being on income support-which would open me up to living with trying too meet the requirements of that. It means that I will not have to claim jobseekers allowance and face massive difficulty trying to ensure thath our basic income is consistent and not stopped every other week.

I am luckier than many in my position because a) my daughter is at school b) her father is a good dad c) I already have an education and that is a hufe factor in her outcome. d) we live in a community where lots of people work and education is seen as something worthwhile f) I have skills which mean that I can make some money even if not a proper living. If I can stay in our community I am likely to be able to earn enough so that we are not in this situation by the time she is 7 or 8.

Yet still there is the very real possibility(very soon) that we will find ourselve drifting out of the world we know- and will become very isolated.

In order to make money that is nowhere near what you neeed to live on stretch. You have to do lots of things. You have to find ways to essentially not exist when you dont need to. FOr instance when my daughter is at her dads I dont leave the house unless I can get where I need to go by walking, and I buy nothing. I basically retreat into the house when I can- as sitting indoors costs little money and I can make no food go a long way.(Luckily writing not only pays some of the bills but keeps me occupied). I spend hours each week trying to buy the right food so we can eat= I cant just go to one shop and do a shop- a couple of bags of shopping in the supermarket cost mre than our entire food budget for a week. My butcher and greengrocer are great at helping me buy JUST what I need- and do cheaper cuts late in the day.

Because there will never be enough money to pay all the bills, I work on a rotation. I know who I can miss payments to, and when, and for how long- and how long they will take before referring me to debt collectors- this means I can pay as much as I can to tick over and avoid bailiffs. This means should I end up in court, I can show I made reasonable attempts to pay my bills.

This accumulates and I spend a good few hours a week on the phone to debt collectors- I have done this for two years.

I receive a summons for my council tax every couple of months, but know taht as long as I can go to court and show that I am trying- I am unlikely to face a custodial sentence. Me and the council have talked about this- they arent allowed not to send a summons or be more reasonable, I cant afford to pay what I need to- I accept this as a conversation that will go on for the next few years or so.

British Gas, and Yorkshire Water are both exceptionally good at bullying, refusing to take you to court instead selling your debt to debt collectors for whom the consumer credit act is irrelevant. Last year with the help of Customer Focus I was able to convince British Gas to act within the law. They have been axed in the bonfire of the quangos.

This accumulates and I spend a good few hours a week on the phone to debt collectors- I have done this for two years.

When my daughter is not at school or her dads- I spend a great deal of time ensuring that I can fill up a day with something interesting that can be done for cheap. IE Lunch in a cafe(£1.35 for beans on toast and £95p for a cup of tea plus a glass of water and a biscuit for her pudding) can stretch trip to town, into the majority of a day out. Sandwiches wrapped up are a picnic, and museums, libraries, a £3 dancing class- ensure that she essentially has the lives of other kids. In order to conjure up the cash required for those things(her dad buys her dance clothes), I have to make considerable sacrifices.

If she wants a friend over for tea, it is something that needs planning in advance so that there is enough for an extra. Cooking is something we do together, so I can turn cooking the dinner into something which is fun over an afternoon. Parenting is an actual job that costs money to do.

The effect of this on me over the two years is the same as it is on many mothers(we know that when a family experience poverty they will try to act as shock absorbers of poverty- depriving themselves so that their children wont be). I am repeatedly ill. I have chronic gastritis which is aggravated by a poor diet, but I occasionally dont get it treated because it can result in loss of appetite for several days and this makes stretching money easier.

I am not writing this for sympathy- quite honestly I don't need it- for all I am skint I am actually very lucky and if we can stay in this house, within a year or so things should be easier- but what I am trying to show you is how important money is.

When you cut public spending in a way that pushes people under the breadline, it doesnt really cut public spending. If it doesnt show up on other benefits bills, it shows up on the bills of other public services. Poverty is destructive to people, families, communities and countries. It is like a cancer, and the symptoms are very difficult to treat, even though it is preventable.

They have cut the benefits which allow people to work, the benefits that allow people to survive when they cant, the legal aid which would allow them access to the legal system, and made higher education into something that costs more than my first mortgage. How is social mobility possible unless it is downward?

We have social policy which is doing this deliberately to lone parents, the disabled, the ill- on the basis of their moral deficiency, and which is wilfully ignoring evidence. Our social policy has never worked in isolation from our economic policy. Single parents are in poverty because they are likely to earn less, face endemic discrimination in the jobs market, and are likely to have to pay childcare. Yet the government has decided that somehow removing our ability to work will incentivise us to get a man.

I am not unusualy. Wages are low in the UK, and we have entire swathes of working people in my position, 21% of working single parents are in my position- not because of lack of aspiration but because the economy creates poverty and doesnt like mothers. A social mobility which offers to cherry pick the worthy kids, leaves working class communities deprived of the one resource which would actually allow real regenerations- and quite honestly if the only way to have social mobility is to leave your community. That isnt social mobility it is emigration.

This truly is not a post designed to elicit sympathy. More to illustrate precisely how and why money is important, and how much of a smokescreen this strategy is.

You cannot slash the things people need to stay in society, and then pretend that money is not the main issue. A social mobility strategy which takes thousands off us a year, and leaves us unable to stay in our community-because money isnt important and my marriage ending means Britain is Broken is not a social mobility strategy. It is a strategy designed to make people look away while the poorest in the country are crucified and their marginalisation and shame(there is a reason this post is anonymous) is relied on to ensure noone notices.. It is becoming more and more tiring to even take part in the world, and a clever middle class early years intervention worker, or a paid internship when my daughter is 21 is unlikely to address any of the reasons we are being further and further trapped.


I also wanted to add that if we have to leave our community, I really dont see how we will get ourselves out of this at all.

And the immediate effect is that I will be more welfare depedent, likely for muchh longer and costing the state much more than I do now. If I could afford to back to work full time, my need of benefits to bridge the gap between what I earn and what it costs to live and have my daughter looked after- would likely only need to be paid for a year or so- and I would be unlikely to need state support for long at all. It seems absurd that to save money on those benefits, the government risks having to pay for me to be welfare dependent long term. I dont want to receive state support and quite frankly the idea of a life like this fills me with dread. My point is that this costs lots of money to fix- and right now the factors which ensure that my daughters outcomes will still be good, are all about where we are, the people around us, and our closeness to amenities that allow me to parent her.

It stuns me that anyone could think it was in the countries economic interests, or in the interests of our society to pay so much money dealing with deliberately created poverty.


Re: that first post. The reason I went into so much detail becomes clear about half way down the post, past the woe is me stuff.

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