In 2018, the former Conservative MP for Putney, RT Hon Justine Greening set up the Social Mobility Pledge. But why is social mobility important in a country as developed as the United Kingdom? The Social Mobility Pledge aims to tackle three core areas of society:
In a Covid-19 world, these three objectives have become more important than ever. People need to be able to find and access employment with many either furloughed, not eligible for furlough or having been made redundant. Outreach is important because the businesses and education establishments signed up to the Social Mobility Pledge have agreed to provide outreach services to the people they are trying to target. For businesses it will be the unemployed, and for education establishments it will be the students and families in the communities that they serve.
Helping young people do better
Recently, Greening and the University of the West of England, based in Bristol, teamed up to close the opportunity gap in a project called ‘UWE Bristol: Maximum impact, long term investment’. At the launch of the project, Greening spoke about her own experiences of getting into higher education and how she was the first generation in her family to get a university degree.
Bristol is an extremely diverse city with an abundance of talented and intelligent young people, so this project with UWE Bristol and the Social Mobility Pledge aims to target the promising young group and those living in the surrounding areas of Bristol. The project’s central aim is to increase access to higher education and career opportunities — arguably two cornerstones that a society battling Covid-19 needs to deal with head on.
During the virtual launch, which I attended as a first-generation student, Justine made some impactful statements, including:
‘The Covid-19 crisis has also reset the relationship between universities and their students, who expect them to be much more active on social purpose. I am delighted that UWE Bristol is at the forefront of this environment, social and corporate governance agenda. Publishing this action plan today sends out a clear signal that UWE Bristol is raising the standard of corporate ESG, and I look forward to working closely with them in the important months ahead for our country’.
Suzanne Carrie, head of equality, diversity and inclusivity at UWE made a further statement on the partnership between UWE Bristol and the Social Mobility Pledge:
‘At UWE Bristol, we believe that all young people should be given the opportunity to fulfil their full potential, regardless of their background. For years, we have been working hard to tackle inequality and to increase access to and awareness of higher education amongst students in disadvantaged areas’.
Justine was also in attendance to find out more about the university’s #iamfirstgen campaign. This campaign is extremely useful in the eyes of the Social Mobility Pledge, since it provides young people who are the first in their families identifiable role models and access to a network of support. There are many first-generation students at UWE, including myself, who have been supported by the campaign. Covid-19 has disrupted the educational lives for many of us, with some first-generation students deciding to defer their 2020 starts to 2021. Despite this disruption however, the campaign will remain an integral part of UWE and the Social Mobility Pledge’s project as the partnership moves forward during an extremely challenging time.
Supporting those with disabilities
One other area of concern when it comes to social mobility is health. Some of the government’s decision-making has meant that people who cannot work, have been forced to do so — often at a cost to their health. The Social Mobility Pledge aims to work with education establishments and businesses to help those students struggling with disability issues find suitable and meaningful work.
In a Covid-19 climate where many people are getting laid off, finding realistic work opportunities can be a way forward for those struggling with a disability.
Every little bit counts
As we navigate our way through a global pandemic which is set to last for months and possibly longer, the above pledges are necessaries to ensuring no one gets left behind.
Outreach partnerships and access to work, education and recruitment opportunities can all help the economy slowly recover. With sectors such as the Performing Arts and Hospitality badly hit with the onslaught of lockdowns and restrictions, something needs to be done to support these vulnerable industries and the people involuntarily affected by something no one saw coming.