Saturday, 9 April 2011

Social mobility and growing child poverty

Polly Toynbee:

But in a week of bad news, social mobility is what Nick Clegg offered as a talisman of good intentions. Every politician is for it – so long as they ignore what it means. First, it requires greater equality – but every forecast shows the country heading the other way. Look at IFS graphs and yes, the top 1% is hit hardest, earners above £150,000 on the (temporary) 50p rate, but after them it is the bottom 10% who suffer most, the next 10% next and so on: it's regressive. Taking the low paid out of tax sounds generous – but that £200 a year is overwhelmed by the average family's extra £450 in VAT. Add in frozen child benefit and public sector pay, then add the more devastating cuts – 10% cut in childcare support worth an average £780, lost EMA worth £30 a week or the £500 cut for new mothers. Austerity babies born from this month lose £1,783 in their first year.
The IFS, that sober judge and honest arbiter, this week made mincemeat of the government's social mobility pretensions. They show it only happens in more equal countries: the UK is one of the most unequal. They say mobility needs children of higher echelons to fall down the ladder to make room: no chance of parents allowing that when the penalties for failure are so severe in Britain (nor of Cameron suggesting it). They say it needs intensive support for the youngest children – but Sure Start is being shredded. They say increasing numbers of graduates reduces wage inequality – but university places are cut. They say careers advice needs to help pupils make the right choices – but Connexions is cut and the new careers service is mooted to be online only. Crucially, they say money matters for mobility – in hard cash – but every prediction is for growing child poverty

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