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Fenland families face disadvantages for generations, report finds

Wisbech Town Centre. Fenland has been named as one of the worst areas for social mobility. Pic: Archant Library.

Wisbech Town Centre. Fenland has been named as one of the worst areas for social mobility. Pic: Archant Library.

Archant

Families in Fenland face being locked into disadvantage for generations unless the issue of social mobility is urgently tackled, the Social Mobility Commission has warned.

The commission has called on regional leaders to draw up tailored, sustained and local programmes to boost social mobility in the worst areas.

A new report names Fenland among areas with the worst social mobility, along with Chiltern, Bradford, Thanet, Bolton, Wolverhampton, Kingston-upon-Hull, Mansfield, Walsall, Gateshead, Kirklees, St Helens, Dudley, Bolton and Wigan,

The commission also wants the government to extend its current Opportunity Areas programme - which gives support to 12 councils including Norwich - to include several more authorities identified as the areas with the most entrenched disadvantage.

It adds that in these areas, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and who are entitled to free school meals have little chance of making a better life for themselves or their families and earn much less than their more affluent peers.

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Individuals aged 28 from disadvantaged families in these council areas earn on average just over half the amount of those from similar backgrounds in the most mobile areas, the study also found.

Steven Cooper. interim co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission, described the findings as “very challenging”.

He said: “They tell a story of deep unfairness, determined by where you grow up.”

The research was carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities.

A government spokeswoman said: “The needs of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable remain central to all our work and we continue to invest heavily to close the attainment gap through initiatives like the £1 billion Covid catch up fund and pupil premium funding, and through investment in childcare and early years education.

“On top of this we are investing £90m in 12 Opportunity Areas to improve skills and outcomes for thousands of young people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of England, with a focus this year on rolling out initiatives that have worked in other areas to help other places tackle similar challenges.”


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