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'Social mobility changes lives'

OPPORTUNITY: The capital should be a place of social mobility for people of all backgrounds, says Shaun Bailey

I BELIEVE THAT where you start in life shouldn’t determine where you end up. London has many success stories: its parliamentary democracy, its booming economy, and its thriving and vibrant culture.

However, beneath this lies a reality of inequality, a high cost of living and people struggling to make ends meet.

If elected the Mayor of London in 2020, social mobility will be a top priority – I want to lead a city where everyone can share in its successes.

I grew up in a community full of decent, hardworking people, who wanted to see their families embrace the opportunities that London offers.

My 26 years as a youth worker showed me that the black community is not always starting from a level playing field, which makes fulfilling your ambitions even harder.

The term ‘social mobility’ is bandied about by politicians so much nowadays that it doesn’t mean much for ordinary people and their day-to-day experiences.

Nevertheless, it is a really important issue to crack.

Social mobility means people having a stake in a society where their aptitude, not their birth, determines what their outcomes will be in life.

It means Londoners being able to secure their own futures, and giving people a chance to lift themselves out of poverty and empower their own communities.

Research from the Social Mobility Commission shows a postcode lottery across the UK – the chances of someone from a disadvantaged background progressing in life are closely linked to where they grew up.

Their research shows that London fares reasonably well in terms of social mobility, owing to its economic success and quality of schools.

We also know that London has some of the worst areas of deprivation and child poverty in the country, making it hard for some to climb the ladder.

Education is critical to social mobility, yet there is unfairness in the system.

The Social Mobility Commission found that black children are less likely to get professional jobs, despite doing better at school, and are the least likely ethnic group to achieve a good degree at university.

Data from last year showed us that the unemployment rate for black male graduates in London aged 16 to 24 was 18 per cent, compared to a rate of 10 per cent for their white counterparts. I firmly believe in working hard to fulfil your potential, but this only succeeds if the playing field is level. Clearly, there is a way to go.

Employment opportunities are a key component of driving social mobility in London and across the UK.

Before entering politics, I organised Job Clubs for young people and witnessed the transformational impact of work on their lives.

Employment not only gives people financial independence, but it also gives them the confidence they need to pursue their goals.

Despite this, some black communities feel unaffected by economic progress around them, and I don’t believe anyone should be left behind.

Above all else, how can London’s businesses thrive if they don’t attract the best talent from all sections of society?

I got into politics because I believed I could be a strong voice for the black community in London and speak proudly about its achievements, and honestly about its challenges.

I believe that I could be that voice as your Mayor of London in 2020. I want to ensure that everyone can secure the future they want and that no one is excluded from opportunities.

Achieving this would be London’s real success story.

London Assembly member Shaun Bailey is the 2020 Conservative candidate for London’s mayoral elections.

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