Conservative peer Gillian Shephard. Picture: Denise Bradley

Baroness takes up role to fight child poverty

By Joseph watts Political editor
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
6.30 AM

Norfolk baroness Gillian Shephard will today take up her role helping to lead a new body which aims to fight child poverty and improve social mobility in the UK.

The former MP for South West Norfolk has been appointed deputy chairman of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission which meets for the first time today.

The body was established by the coalition government, but is non-political; it will be chaired by former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn.

Baroness Shephard said: “There are two distinct areas of work. One is looking at child poverty, ascertaining exactly what it is and how it impacts on social mobility. We’ll be looking at whether it is about money, social issues, education and so on.

“The other side is addressing the situation in which seven per cent of the population that is educated independently accounts for 70pc of high court judges, 54pc of top journalists and 54pc of FTSE 100 CEOs.

“It’s extraordinary that we are still in this position as a country and we need to understand the elements that mean this is continuing to happen.”

The commission will advise the government and will monitor its progress on how it implements the most recent UK child poverty strategy.

It will also be tasked to challenge non-government institutions such as universities and big business to ensure they are doing enough to improve social mobility.

Other people sitting on the board of the commission, which has a three-year life span, include Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s and Tom Attwood a director at the Centre for Social Justice.

Among the group’s first task will be to look at how the government measures child poverty – an issue which has sparked heated debate between the coalition and Labour parties recently.

Baroness Shephard, who was education secretary in John Major’s government, said: “Raising aspirations is incredibly important. It’s an area that I’m very interested in, I’m very pleased to have been given the job.”

joseph.watts@archant.co.uk