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Children in the middle
Detail: In a recent editorial in The Daily Telegraph, Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith argue that it's not just the poor who need social mobility; Children in the middle deserve better life chances too. Excerpts from the editorial are included below:

Our welfare reforms are intended to help people get on, and to get ahead. And as a Government, we have committed ourselves to promoting social mobility as the main goal of our social policy. For us, a fair society is an open society, one in which opportunities are not determined by background but by drive and ability.

That is not the kind of society we live in today. Millions of children have doors closed to them. One in five qualify for school meals - but they make up fewer than one in 100 students at Oxbridge. Poorer children do systematically worse on both cognitive and behavioural outcomes at the ages of three and five. By five, less bright children from affluent families have overtaken the bright ones from poorer homes. So a focus on social mobility means helping those from poorer backgrounds.

But it means helping middle-income households, too. There are millions of parents working hard to make the best life possible for their children. Most of them are not poor, and certainly don't want to rely on welfare payments. But nor are they rich enough to insulate their children against life's misfortunes.
Our social mobility strategy sets out a series of indicators that will measure our progress in expanding opportunities, including a measure of whether our best universities are opening up to the nine in 10 children educated at state schools. More than half the people at the top of the legal profession, politics, business and journalism went to fee-paying schools, which can only be afforded by a few. Our push to open up internships is intended to prevent the lucky few grabbing all the best chances. This is mobility for the middle, not just the bottom.

It is not about social engineering. Quite the opposite - it is about creating a level playing field. We want a society in which success is based on what you know, not who you know or which family you are born into. So our social mobility drive is aimed at helping the majority of people to move up the rungs of the ladder of opportunity.

Meanwhile our approach to social justice is focused on getting people on the ladder in the first place. Too many people are detached from the opportunities and ambitions of mainstream society. To reconnect them we need to tackle the root causes of poverty.

The pathways to deep poverty include worklessness, educational failure, debt, mental health problems and family breakdown. These are compounded by other factors such as addiction, poor housing and the criminal justice system. The root causes of poverty are complex. But it is important that we recognise that these factors affect families as a whole. That is why our child poverty strategy also introduces new, broader measurements focused on life chances indicators, putting the family at the heart of our approach to tackling child poverty.

It is also important to consider the depth as well as the prevalence of poverty. Behind the headline-grabbing, income-based poverty measures, there are more than five million families suffering from multiple disadvantages. We must not make the mistake of supporting only those who are easiest to help. That is why we will, for the first time, be properly tracking severe poverty, too.

We have set ourselves the demanding targets of improving social mobility and tackling entrenched poverty. We know there are no quick fixes. We know that progress will take time. But we are absolutely clear about our goals, and clear about what we mean by a fair society: one in which nobody is left behind, and everyone has a chance to get ahead.
Source: Nick Clegg; Iain Duncan Smith, EDITORIAL; OPINION, COLUMNS; Pg. 20, The Daily Telegraph (London), April 5, 2011 Tuesday
Date: April 30 2011