A report released earlier in the year by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has highlighted Norwich to be the second worst of all authorities in the country when it comes to helping young people from poorer backgrounds progress in life.
The Social Mobility Index is calculated using indicators based on educational attainment of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as outcomes achieved by adults in the city - such as average income, job availability and affordability of housing.
To help find out why Norwich scores so poorly on this index, Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, has surveyed numerous charities and other organisations in the city who work to support young people and improve their prospects.
The responses received show that professionals in the sector consider factors such as education, aspiration and funding to be key issues when it comes to furthering social mobility.
Failing education in deprived areas of Norwich was repeatedly flagged up as being a significant contributor to the results, with one youth charity CEO adding that “academisation certainly hasn’t helped, despite ostensibly improving results in the short term”.
Several organisations highlighted low aspiration as a limiting factor for young people achieving well in school and beyond; a youth charity CEO said: “Low aspirations, and a lack of understanding of the value of education amongst parents and families has a knock on effect in terms of young people’s engagement in learning and long term personal development.”
Lack of funding for services and activities which help to build youth confidence and aspiration is also strongly felt to be holding back improvements social mobility in Norwich. Charities highlighted how the funding that is currently available can be restrictive, and how the application and progress-reporting process can be needlessly time consuming; as a result, long-term planning can be difficult.
Commenting on the findings, Clive Lewis MP says:
“I'm proud of the fact there are so many charities and organisations in Norwich doing fantastic work to make sure our city’s young people have the best chances in life. I hope we can continue to work together to strengthen and expand this work.
However, it’s a shame these charities are still needed to such an extent. They offer vital community-level support to young people in Norwich, but it is clear there are many national issues which need to be addressed in order to make real progress.
With there being no conclusive evidence that academisation will improve quality of education, I do not believe the Government’s plans for all schools to become academies will see the positive changes in standards that Norwich needs - quite the opposite.
In adulthood, substandard and insecure housing, unemployment and poor mental health can all result in low aspiration; this is passed down through generations and fuels a cycle of deprivation. I will continue to press for improvements in these areas so that the welfare and confidence of young people can be improved.”
Councillor Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, comments on how the Council hopes to see social mobility improvements in the area:
“Norwich City Council is committed to moving towards a fairer city with greater equality for all its residents. We work with others to promote opportunities for residents to live in secure sustainable housing, with fairly paid employment and access to opportunity.
Provide a significant number of low cost affordable secure housing to support residents on low incomes.
Channel council spending where possible into the local economy, maintaining and supporting local employment
Pay the Living Wage Foundation’s living wage to all our employees and contractors to support fairly paid local jobs.
Are supporting the creation of a new ‘early help hub’ based in city hall which opens next month
Maintain a council tax reduction scheme which takes pressure off the poorest residents
In short, everything we do is with fairness in mind to support residents, keep them in secure low cost accommodation, provide or campaign for fair wages and opportunities that increase the possibility of social mobility.”