The Social Mobility Commission has a vital role to play in “[putting] the Government’s feet to the fire” – but changes need to be made.
This is according to a March 2018 report from the Education Committee, after four Commissioners resigned in December 2017.
The concludes and recommends:
- The Commission, as a body driven and informed by data and analysis, is well placed to produce social justice impact assessments for domestic policy. These impact assessments should not only be a means by which negative effects are flagged, but should be used to help government improve policy for the benefit of improving social justice
- That the Commission should be given specific power to publish social justice impact assessments on both policy and legislative proposals. The Government must ensure that the Commission is sufficiently resourced to be able to fulfill these additional functions
- That the Commission be empowered to give advice proactively to Ministers on how to improve social justice in England, in addition to its duty to give advice to Ministers on request
- The Commission’s membership should not have been allowed to dwindle to the point that it did. We recommend that the minimum membership of the Commission should be at least seven members in addition to the Chair
- The Commission were concerned to hear Mr Milburn’s report of the “farcical” failed appointments process for the new Commissioners. The Government must ensure that future appointment processes do not follow the pattern of this process, which was wholly unacceptable
- An independent body reporting from the outside of Government on the progress made on improving social justice should work in tandem with a body inside Government to coordinate action and implement solutions. There must be clear communication between the two bodies to ensure that the implementation and coordination body is able to act effectively on the Commission’s research
- Even the best monitoring and reporting on social mobility is of limited value unless the outcomes of the reports and recommendations are acted upon. The combination of a strengthened Commission and a body at the heart of Government to drive forward recommendations would better demonstrate the Government’s commitment to social mobility
- That a Minister in the Cabinet Office be given specific responsibility for leading cross-government work on social mobility. The Minister should have responsibility for a dedicated unit with a remit to tackle social injustice, provide vital coordination across Government and ensure effective implementation of ways to increase social mobility. The body would also be the crucial reporting hub for the Commission to report into Government.
In December 2017, the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Rt Alan Milburn, resigned alongside his three fellow Commissioners. The Committee invited the former Commissioners to give evidence to discuss their reasons for resigning and the future of the Social Mobility Commission.