The Commission, whose former chair and members quit a year ago because of lack of action from the Government, will now be chaired by Dame Martina Milburn, group chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, who has appointed 12 commissioners from ‘diverse’ backgrounds. Three of the commissioners are under 23 years of age.
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Commissioners include editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Farrah Storr, volunteer and part-time sales assistant at Marks & Spencer Harvey Mathewson, the founder of Broody, which helps entrepreneurs and start-ups, Liz Williams, and associate professor in sociology at the London School of Economics (LSE) Sam Friedman.
The Government has also committted to giving the Commission an extra £2 million in April to fund its research.
To coincide with its relaunch, the Commission has released findings from its first survey into people’s opinions of social mobility today, which reveals ‘deep unease’ in Britain about the gap between the rich and the poor. Those that responded to the survey thought that Government, employers and schools are doing too little to help the less advantaged get a fair chance in life.
The function of the Commission is to monitor progress on improving social mobility, advise ministers on matters relating to social mobility and undertake social mobility advocacy.
Speaking to the Observer, Dame Martina vowed to examine the impact of Universal Credit on young people and social mobility. She also said that vocational education would be a priority for the Commission given the ‘problems with the Government’s plans for the T-Levels and an apprenticeship levy on businesses.’
Dame Martina went on to say that while degree level apprenticeships have ‘taken off’, entry level apprenticeships haven’t, and it is these that will improve social mobility.
The Commission’s survey, to which 500 people responded, found that over-65s are much more likely to think apprenticeships offer the best opportunity for progression, compared to the young people that many are aimed at. Younger people tended to think that higher education offered a better opportunity.
Speaking today at the relaunch of the Commission, Dame Martina will say, ‘If we fail to act too many young people will continue to face challenges getting into colleges, universities and employment. We all need to do more to tackle these issues, but there needs to be renewed focus from Government, educators and employers.
‘I am delighted the Government is showing its commitment to the Social Mobility Commission by providing an initial £2 million for research and evidence in our first full year of operating as a new Commission. This will enable us to start expanding our research base and deliver on our role to promote social mobility throughout the country.’
In the New Year the Commission will release a social mobility toolkit for employers and, in March, will set out its annual State of the Nation assessment of social mobility in Great Britain.