Raise child benefit by £10 a week, urge government’s social mobility advisers

The government’s social mobility advisers have called for a multi-billion pound investment in welfare, education, and jobs to put disadvantaged youngsters at the heart of the UK’s recovery from the pandemic, and tackle rapidly-widening inequalities.

The Social Mobility Commission said ending child poverty should be at the heart of Britain’s post-Covid plans, and urges the scrapping of the two-child limit on benefits and raising child benefit by £10 a week to lift 1.5m children above the breadline

It also proposes massive investment in education to narrow soaring school attainment gaps between disadvantaged and privileged children, including extra financial support for disadvantaged students aged 16-19 and increased “catch-up” tutoring for deprived students.

Without urgent investment, the next generation of youngsters face “decades of hardship” as a result of the devastating impact of coronavirus – and social mobility is at risk of grinding to a halt in the face of widening inequalities, it says in its annual report.

“Our proposals for education recovery, cutting child poverty by a third and creating opportunity for disadvantaged people will come with a hefty price tag, but they are critical to address the challenges we have identified – and they will benefit everyone in society,” it says.

The government’s levelling-up plans should be as much about people as they are about infrastructure it says – and it warns that now is not the time to cut public spending. Taxes should be levied on the wealthiest to pay for the investment, it says, and warns that “small funding packages on the margins” will have little impact.

Sandra Wallace, interim co-chair of the SMC, said: “Now is the time to take action and we must not shy away from difficult decisions. Now is the moment to level up opportunities for children across the country. Ending child poverty and investing significantly in education are two of the most impactful and influential things the UK government can do to improve social mobility.”

It praises the government for “digging deep” to provide financial support for businesses and individuals hit by the pandemic, and says it must now dig deep again to take the same decisive action to improve social mobility, adding that “there could not be a more pressing time for the UK government to make an action plan.

“Nearly one in three children in the UK now live in poverty, around 4.3 million … Disadvantaged pupils in England are now as much as seven months behind their more privileged peers at school, including the gaps that grew in the last year. Young people have been more susceptible to job losses, with an 8.7% drop [in employment] for working class men aged 16-24,” it says.

The government must not shy away from difficult decisions, it says, while a bold recovery plan “will ensure that the disadvantaged are the first to get support to rebuild their lives and seize any opportunities, and build a fairer United Kingdom, post-pandemic”.

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