The Social Mobility Commission, led by Alan Milburn and former minister Gillian Shephard have released the latest Social Mobility Index in their 2017 State of the Nation report. Comparing this report roughly to the worrying 2016 index, Norwich is making progress.
Last year’s news of being the second worst in the country for social mobility was difficult for all of us here in the city. I know we all care deeply about social mobility, because we want all children to be able to choose their path, no matter where they start from. As a city MP I immediately started bringing people together to look at the problem, and made some progress. Shortly after, the government responding with making Norwich an 'Opportunity Area', and I have close involvement with the scheme as the chair of the special Youth Board, which gives the city’s young people the chance to have their say on their future.
The Norwich Opportunity Area is a network of local partners collaborating on coordinated activities to increase social mobility in Norwich. The Department for Education is concentrating extra funding and all forms of support on Norwich and the other selected places, over three years, to make a difference to young people’s lives and help them overcome the barriers that hold them back. This year’s report shows the scheme is beginning to work. We know we are now on track and heading in the right direction. I'd like to thank everyone for their hard work so far, and urge more people to get behind the Opportunity Area.
However, whilst the city’s ranking is moving in the right direction, there is still more to do. I have seen evidence of the challenges people face through the constituency casework I undertake. What I want to see now are clear signs that the hard work being put into the Opportunity Areas programme will produce more results for those in Norwich who need our help most.
The report reminds us that in Norwich we would like wages to be higher and that fewer people own their home. So I am proud that the Conservative government is tackling this head on by raising the National Living Wage and has recently set out in the Budget help for young people to buy their first home.
We have good reason to feel encouraged by this report. It shows us that more disadvantaged young people are going to university and they're catching up in the gap between them and their peers. So we should continue efforts to help the most disadvantaged, because that makes the biggest difference, and makes our country fairer. As a constituency MP I will carry on this work locally and nationally because it's so important.