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Social Mobility

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 23 February 2022

The Government believe the circumstances of one’s birth should not determine life outcomes. As part of our plan to increase opportunity, we recently published the levelling-up White Paper to address regional disparities, which is one of the key drivers of social mobility across the UK.

In the civil service’s most recent diversity data, there is data on all the protected characteristics but nothing on social background, which has historically been a problem in the civil service, particularly at senior levels. Will my hon. Friend look at that so that we know whether the civil service is open to all backgrounds and is making its own contribution to social mobility?

Social background is not a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, but the civil service did begin implementing socio-economic background measures for its workforce in 2018. Many Departments collect that data, but declaration rates have not yet reached a sufficient threshold for publication. However, I understand that the Cabinet Office is working with Departments to increase declaration rates to enable publication in next year’s civil service statistics publication.

On a visit to Holy Family School in Keighley earlier this month, I was able to share the fantastic news that my constituency will become one of the Government’s key education investment areas. What role will my hon. Friend’s Department play to ensure that increasing social mobility is at the heart of plans, alongside the levelling-up White Paper, to transform the life chances of young people across Keighley?

I am delighted that my hon. Friend’s constituency will benefit from the Government’s education investment areas and will invest in areas where educational attainment is weakest. Important initiatives such as that will help us to spread opportunity and level up the country. Equality has an important role to play and my officials are working closely with Departments to encourage focused and evidence-based action.

On social mobility, does the Minister appreciate that some are concerned about the proposals that would mean that people would not have access to funding for tuition fees unless they meet certain grades at GCSE and A-level? Will that not impact more heavily on poorer families?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. The Department for Education will have done an equalities impact assessment on any new policies that it will announce. Those will be taken into account to make sure that people who are most at risk and most vulnerable are not prevented from taking up education in any way.

Children from poorer backgrounds are four times more likely to suffer a serious brain injury by their fifth birthday and again in their teenage years than children from wealthier backgrounds. That obviously limits their opportunities in life. What will the Government do about that?

I am afraid that I do not have an answer specifically on what we are doing on brain injuries, but I will get the relevant Minister to write to the hon. Member and provide the appropriate information.