‘Whole tracts of Britain feel left behind,’ warns Social Mobility Commission

‘Whole tracts of Britain feel left behind,’ warns Social Mobility Commission
Opportunities for poor children are growing so slowly that it will take another 40 years for disadvantaged pupils to catch up with classmates in their first year of school, a report has found.

The Social Mobility Commission research, reviewing two decades of policies, said Britain will become more divided without concerted action to narrow the gap between the “haves and have-nots.” 

Its damning report, ‘Time for Change’, which assesses government social policies from 1997 to 2017, found decades of government efforts had failed to deliver enough progress. It said there are glaring gaps between the disadvantaged and the better off at every stage of life.

“Disadvantaged children are still 17.3 percentage points more likely to fail to reach school readiness at age five than their better-off peers,” the report said.

“If progress continues at the current rate, it will take 18 years before all children are school ready by the age of five and more than 40 years before the attainment gap between poor five-year-olds and their better-off peers is closed.”

There is currently no prospect of the gap between poorer and wealthier children being eliminated at either GCSE or A-level, the report said. In higher education, it will take about 80 years before the participation gap between students from rich and poor areas closes.

The report also highlights that child poverty has risen in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, with about 4 million - or 30 percent - of young people now classified as poor.

Economic growth in London and other major cities have left other parts of England behind and risks leaving them “hollowed out” as people leave in search of opportunities, the report found. It added that the income and wealth divide had become “more acute.”

Wages have stagnated in real terms, particularly among the young, with the poorest most affected by falling living standards. Despite slow progress, the best-paid jobs remain “deeply elitist.”

The commission’s chairman, Alan Milburn, a former Labour minister, warned that “whole tracts of Britain feel left behind” in “volatile and uncertain times,” according to the Independent.

Milburn said the country is facing major questions about its future role in the world, national security, the economy and social cohesion.

“As the recent general election seems to demonstrate, there is no consensus in the nation about how best to answer these questions. The public mood is sour, sometimes angry.

“Whole tracts of Britain feel left behind. Whole communities feel the benefits of globalization have passed them by. Whole sections of society feel they are not getting a fair chance to succeed.

“The growing sense that we have become an us-and-them society is deeply corrosive of our cohesion of a nation.”

Meanwhile, new figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests almost one in three Britons has spent time in poverty in recent years.

Between 2012 and 2015, 14.6 percent of people in the UK experienced one year of poverty, 7.1 percent two years, 4.1 percent three years and 4.4 percent four years — a total of 30.2 percent falling into poverty at some point over the four-year period.

The number in persistent poverty with incomes below 60 percent of the national median in three of the four years was 4.6 million, or 7.3 percent of the population, in 2015. This was up from 6.5 percent in the previous year.