PSE: UK team’s response to government social mobility review

The PSE: UK research team has produced a detailed response to the government’s call for evidence on their strategy on social mobility and child poverty. While welcoming aspects of the strategy and the overall aims, the PSE: UK team argue that the strategies fail to tackle the multiple structural causes of lack of social mobility and underestimate the importance of material deprivation. Key questions asked in the call for evidence were:

Question 1: What do you think are the links between social mobility and child poverty?

The PSE: UK team welcome the suggestion of increased emphasis on the early years, the availability and quality of services for families and children and improving parenting but argue that parenting quality is not a primary cause of poverty in the UK or in other countries. Parenting skills and poverty both have important but independent effects on children’s outcomes.

Question 2: What are the main barriers which stop people moving out of poverty or which prevent people from slipping into poverty?

In the UK, there is consistent and overwhelming evidence that child poverty is a major cause of ill health in both childhood and in later life and also a primary cause of inequalities in health. Poverty is also a primary cause of low educational attainment. The PSE: UK team argue that eradicating child poverty by increasing the incomes of poor families will improve health and educational outcomes by reducing the deprivations children suffer.

Question 3: Do you think the government’s policies, in particular the social mobility and child poverty strategies, will improve people’s life chances?

The PSE: UK team argue that both the social mobility and child poverty strategies largely ignore the structural reasons for the persistence of poverty, low social mobility and educational underachievement (e.g. inadequate school funding in poor areas, social class segregation in the education system, etc.). Unless the Coalition government is prepared to tackle the multiple structural problems which currently prevent working class children from achieving their educational potential, these policies will be unsuccessful.

Question 4: Are there other policies that could be implemented for the same cost which would ensure that all citizens have the same opportunities?

The child poverty strategy is criticised as being too narrow. It is of particular concern that the strategy in the consultation document does not adequately address the inadequate income and material living conditions of families with children that are unable to take up paid employment. It is also of concern that children and young people are assumed to be passive recipients of policy and services rather than active citizens who have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Question 5: How can we create the right mix of practical and financial support to ensure that all people have opportunities to get on in life?

It is hard to overstate the importance of services for increasing the standard of living of poor children in the UK, yet there is currently no official measure of inadequate service access for children (and their families). The PSE: UK team argue for the development of service deprivation measures.

See the full PSE: UK Consultation Response: Social Mobility and Child Poverty Review.