COMMONS

Greater powers needed to address UK's social crisis

22 March 2018

The Social Mobility Commission (SMC), the advisory body which promotes and monitors progress towards improving social mobility, needs greater powers and should be complemented by a new delivery body to drive forward social justice initiatives across Government and the country, the Education Committee has concluded in its report.

Social justice

To live up to the promise of the Prime Minister's words that Britain become "a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us", the Education Committee calls for the SMC to have greater resources and powers to enable it to publish social justice impact assessments on Government policies and to proactively advise Ministers on social justice issues, rather than just at the request of Ministers as currently. The Committee expresses concern at the 'farcical' failed appointments process for new Commissioners, regrets the fact that the SMC's membership was allowed to dwindle to four Commissioners (from an initial membership of ten), and recommends a minimum membership of seven members in addition to the Chair.

Stronger powers for the Social Mobility Commission

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP for Harlow, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

"Without stronger powers the Social Mobility Commission will do little to tackle social injustices and give the most vulnerable in society the chance they deserve to climb the ladder of opportunity.

The Government needs to co-ordinate the social justice agenda from the centre and should give a Minister in the Cabinet Office specific responsibility to lead on this work and to ensure that the policies deliver in improving opportunities for all.

It's crucial that a new body is created inside Government with the levers and powers to co-ordinate and drive forward initiatives across Whitehall and ensure social justice is delivered across the country.

We need a Commission which has the teeth to undertake objective assessments of the implications for social justice of Government policies and is properly equipped to hold Ministers’ feet to the fire on social mobility.

The Prime Minister sent a strong message when she spoke on the steps of No.10 about the importance of fighting against the burning injustice in our society, setting out a commitment to ensure our country works for all, not just the privileged few. But if we are to tackle the social crisis in our country, we must devote far greater energy and focus to the social justice agenda.

Alan Milburn, Baroness Shephard and the other Commissioners at the SMC did great and necessary work in highlighting the islands of social injustice that exist in our country. It’s vital that the SMC is not now left to whistle in the wind."

Main recommendations

The Committee recommends that a better-resourced independent body - a revamped SMC - should work in tandem with a body inside Government to coordinate action and implement solutions. The report says there must be clear communication between the two bodies to ensure that the implementation and coordination body is able to act effectively on the Commission's research.

The Education Committee is clear that the Commission should seek to offer all people equal access to opportunities and recommends the name be changed to the Social Justice Commission.

Alongside the report, the Committee has published a draft Bill which would give effect to all the changes to the Social Mobility Commission that the Committee recommends in its report. 

Further information

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