Work ‘may be no way out of poverty’

Alan MilburnAlan Milburn is producing a series of reports on social mobility for the coalition

For millions of families, work no longer pays enough to provide a route out of poverty, the government’s social mobility tsar is expected to warn.

A report headed up by one-time Labour minister Alan Milburn will highlight stagnating incomes and rising prices.

He is due to call on employers to do more to support low-paid families earning less than a living wage.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned against asking pensioners to pay more to tackle the problem.

In its first report, the government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is also expected to warn that middle-class children face lower living standards than their parents for the first time in more than a century.

Mr Milburn is expected to recommend using some of the funding set aside to help the poorest children in society also to boost the life chances of middle-class families.

This will help parents who although not wealthy are still too well-off to benefit from significant state help, he will argue.

‘Lack of progress’

Real-terms incomes have stagnated since 2003 but prices are continuing to rise, the commission will point out, meaning employment may not enable a low-income family to escape poverty.

The report is likely to suggest that, in the current economic climate, it is unrealistic to expect the government to continue topping up low pay using working tax credits.

It is thought the commission may argue that employers need to do more – paying higher minimum wages and offering better training and career development.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Clegg praised the findings, saying: “It is not every day that the government welcomes a report that criticises the way things are being done and draws attention to a lack of progress made.”

But he described the report’s questioning of whether cuts were falling fairly among different generations as “debateable”.

“Punishing pensioners isn’t going to help a single child achieve more in life,” he said.

Mr Milburn, who stood down as an MP at the last election, will also advocate a scheme for pairing bright children and the best teachers in an effort to raise attainment.

The former health secretary, who has been asked by the government to produce a series of reports, has previously said social mobility – the idea that individuals can better themselves in terms of educational opportunity, job prospects and salaries from one generation to the next – is “flatlining”.

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Work ‘may be no way out of poverty’
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