Social Mobility is the Holy Grail of public policy according to Milburn


Ahead of an event run by left of centre lobby group ‘Progress’ -Onwards and Upwards: advancing social mobility in an age of austerity – Alan  Milburn outlined on 24 January  what he aims to achieve as the government’s social mobility ‘tsar’.  Milburn believes that Social mobility has become the new holy grail of public policy.  He believes we will not create a mobile society unless we create more of a level playing field of opportunity. He  also claims that the long-running decline in social mobility was halted but not reversed under the last Government. The education attainment gap between rich and poor narrowed he says  but low-ability children from wealthy families still overtake high-ability children from poor families during primary school. And the UK’s professions have actually become more, not less, socially exclusive over time.  He wants to “ To break down barriers of entrenched privilege and vested interest. To open up avenues of advancement so they are available to all, not just some. To redistribute power and opportunity in our society.” He said on 24 January  “Of course no single organisation or lever can make Britain more socially mobile. It’s far too complex an issue for that. It’s as much about family networks as it is careers advice, individual aspirations as school standards, university admission procedures as well as career development opportunities. I will be looking for progress on all these fronts.”  Mr Milburn is expected to deliver a report for the Coalition in the autumn covering access to higher education and professions such as law and medicine. He has also admitted that Labour’s own attempts to boost social mobility had been “flawed” as the party failed to accurately define what it was trying to achieve. He contrasted Tony Blair’s drive to raise aspirations among poor students with Gordon Brown’s attempts to make society more equal.  “They are very different ideas and, in my view, both are flawed,” he said. “Neither is in tune with the modern world and I think if we as a society are to be genuinely open and fluid and mobile, we will need a new, progressive concept of what fairness means.” He added: “The goal we should be aiming for is to reduce the extent to which a person’s class or income is dependent on the class or income of their parents.” Milburn believes our universities,  and not just the elite ones, should take less pupils from the independent sector.

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