Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Tackling the symptoms

There are some fine words from Nick Clegg in his foreword to the UK Government’s strategy for social mobility.  Fairness, he says, is a society “Where birth is never destiny”, and he goes on to say, “In Britain today, life chances are narrowed for too many by the circumstances of their birth: the home they’re born into, the neighbourhood they grow up in or the jobs their parents do. Patterns of inequality are imprinted from one generation to the next.”  I think it’s fair, then, to judge the strategy on whether or not it tackles that fundamental unfairness.
He has certainly identified a very important point, which is that we live in a society where life chances are determined more by who our parents are and how much wealth or income they have than by any considerations of talent and ability.  As the document itself states very early on, “The income and social class of parents continue to have a huge bearing on a child’s chances”.
The problem is, though, that although they appear to have identified the cause, the strategy seems to vacillate between describing it as causality and correlation.  I suspect that that is largely because the whole strategy is about dealing with the symptoms, and completely avoids any actions aimed at reducing the underlying inequalities; to fully recognise those as being causal would only serve to underline the failure to tackle them.  In short, the basic inequality is taken as a given, and the government plans to concentrate its efforts on trying to mitigate the effects of that inequality.
I’m not against trying to mitigate the symptoms; anything that helps some is better than nothing.  But the result of this strategy, I fear, is that it cannot and will not live up to the worthy words of its sponsor.  Wealth and privilege will continue to give unfair advantages to the children of the wealthy and privileged.


Boncath said...

Worthy words with no substance
Wales has been here before
Remember "Something must be done" Edward 8th
Jac o the north hit it on the nail in his last comment unless we can control our own destiny we will always lose out.
Plaid needs you back on board

Spirit of BME said...

I love Little “Cloggy” Cleg`s words about advantages of birth. Of course he and HMG do not consider this wrong when it comes to “first family of the land” (State Media description not mine) but it will be the only consideration in Chuck Battenberg’s next job.
Is that important, yes I think it is, because if the top job in the realm is based on that criterion, then getting everybody else to ignore that fact is like whistling against thunder.

John Dixon said...


Not sure that that really counts as a 'job', but the point is valid.