The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission recently released some interesting data. It ranked each of the local authorities in England in terms of the social mobility prospects of disadvantaged children in their area, mapping the ‘new geography of disadvantage’.
In short the index compares the chances that a child from a disadvantaged background will do well at school and get a good job across each of the 324 local authority district areas of England.
Coastal and rural areas tend to be worse than urban areas. Deprived areas offer less opportunities for disadvantaged young people and adults alike. But the real surprise is that areas thought of as wealthy are some of the worst performing. Many of the richest places in England are doing worse than locations that are much poorer. For example Cambridge and Oxford are affluent cities yet very bad at carving out opportunities for young people from poor backgrounds. So much so that they are in the bottom 20%.
This disadvantage is worse because it is invisible – hidden behind a veneer of money and success. There is a worrying disconnect between the jobs that have brought wealth to an area and their accessibility for young people.
It seems particularly cruel on less advantaged young people, caught in a catch 22. In order to seek economic opportunity they must move away from the area they were born in, yet most likely lack the means to do so. Opportunities are not available to them, they been appropriated by adults and affluence does not trickle down.
The government announced in July that young people aged 18-21 years would soon no longer be able to access housing benefit. This study demonstrates what a devastating effect this will have on the futures of these young people – they will be forced to remain living at home but condemned to unemployment due to an absence of opportunity.
The policy will serve to actively undermine government efforts to get young people to ‘earn or learn’ and will trap young people in a permament state of childhood – not able to move on with their lives or make decisions about their future.
If there is a small ray of hope from the study it is that London, despite being overcrowded with sky high house prices and rents soaring, offers disadvantaged young people more hope, emerging as ‘way ahead’ in terms of opportunity.