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EU Referendum debate needs to talk to our poorest communities

The debate around the EU referendum campaign is in danger of becoming one long 'process' story. Both Leave and Remain campaigns have much more to do if they are to talk directly to our poorest communities. 

What does staying in or pulling out of the EU really mean for a single mother living with two children in Tower Hamlets, or a couple surviving on one National Living Wage income in Manchester? No one is talking to these people yet.

The Referendum campaigns need to turn the focus away from internal debates. When the Prime Minister fires the starting gun on the Referendum campaign the Centre for Social Justice will be hosting a debate asking, “Leave or Remain: Which is best for Britain’s poor?” We hope this will be the start of turning the debate towards real issues and real lives.

The Family Test is a test of Government

Just before the Christmas break a backbench Bill on the Family Test was quietly talked out by Government Ministers.

This issue is growing in importance as the Government seeks to deliver policies which match the Prime Minister’s strong rhetoric around the family.

Earlier this week the CSJ hosted a discussion on the Family Test, bringing together Parliamentarians and experts. During the discussion we explored ways in which the Family Test could be embraced across Government Departments and how a strong evidence base could be established. Our recommendations are being written up ahead of being submitted to Government.

Above all, this is a test of Government.

Ministers in all Departments need to understand how their Department and its policy making impacts on family life and ensure the Test reflects the Government's rhetoric in this area.

The Prime Minister's "social renewal" legacy lies in a cultural shift

By Frank Young 

In promising to "bring the battle for equality" to universities the Government is set to outline a raft of new data requirements, shining a light on the recruitment practices of our leading institutions and cajoling them to do more to recruit from a wider range of backgrounds.

The Prime Minister kicked off the week with a major Op-Ed ‘shaming’ our country’s leading institutions for their record in recruiting from BME and ‘working class’ backgrounds. This is an important cause, however exposing the failure of our elite institutions to widen recruitment will only take us so far.

If we want to unlock social mobility in this country we must challenge a poverty of aspiration where it exists, a syndrome Michael Gove used to describe as the "soft bigotry of low expectations".

The Government should confront attitudes that hold young people back and lift the sights of our brightest and best wherever they come from. Until we challenge attitudes and the low expectations which hold talented young people back, no amount of reporting will change our ‘shameful’ record of social mobility.

Halving the disability employment gap can be the Government's next "jobs miracle"

By Mark Winterburn

The welfare system must always support those who cannot work, but moving into a job on a decent wage is always the best route out of poverty.

The Government can be proud of its record of helping the unemployed into work, the so called ‘jobs miracle’. Just over half of all workless households now contain at least one adult with a disability. The next big challenge for the Government in reducing unemployment is to tackle the disability employment gap.

Given that 16 per cent of the UK working-age population are disabled, adopting a positive approach to the employment of disabled workers is an increasingly important priority. Some employers are starting to realise this and the Government’s Disability Confident Campaign is helping to change attitudes amongst employers.

We need to provide a genuine, flexible working environment that helps disabled people stay in work. One in six of those who become disabled while in work lose their employment during the first year after becoming disabled. The culture of the workplace is rightly shifting towards flexible working hours to help parents and a similar shift is needed for disabled workers.

Channel 4 is one such employer with the potential to make a big difference. Earlier this year Channel 4 announced they were making 2016 the ‘year of disability’. During 2016 they will promote disabled actors and presenters and change their own working practices to make their workplace disability friendly. We need other companies to follow Channel 4’s lead if we are to close the disability employment gap and help the disabled find sustained employment.

Young people should look to University Technical Colleges for long term success

By Alex Burghart

At the start of the week former Education Secretary, Lord Baker reported that an impressive 99.5 per cent of students leaving a University Technical College (UTC) last year went into education, training or a job.

UTCs are one of the best kept secrets in our education system and part of a slow renaissance in English vocational education.

Thanks largely to the efforts of Michael Gove in his time as Education Secretary, young people contemplating a traditional University route can now see if the course they aspire to will lead to a Graduate level job and sustained employment. The same information now needs to be extended to Further Education and UTCs to help students make better post school decisions.

Extending this information to a wider range of educational providers will help young people to choose courses with concrete outcomes and eliminate courses which simply lead to unemployment and debt.

It's time to recognise the dynamic effects of Universal Credit in Britain's "job miracle"

By Saskia Greenhalgh

In an article for the Sunday Times last weekend, Shadow Business Secretary, Angela Eagle responded to proposals from the Labour Leadership to restrict the ability of large companies to pay out dividends as “flawed and unworkable”.

Instead of chiding our biggest employers, the Labour Party should embrace the Universal Credit revolution that is helping more people take on more work.

This week has seen a flurry of reports into Universal Credit with the Institute for Fiscal Studies praising the ability of Universal Credit to “help strengthen the incentive to find work”.

Before Christmas the Government produced a landmark piece of research which deserved to get more attention. Looking at claimants working less than 30 hours a week, the Government found that 86 per cent of those in receipt of Universal Credit were trying to earn more through increasing their hours. Universal Credit is starting to fulfil its promise of a dynamic benefit by removing some of the cliff edges preventing the low paid from earning more through work.

This is good for our largest employers and good for low paid workers. Universal Credit supports people who are more willing to take on extra shifts and be flexible about the hours they work. As the Government report identified, “employers tell us that they are already using the flexibility afforded by Universal Credit to create more jobs and increase the hours offered to employees”.

If the Labour Party wants to support the low paid they should embrace the Universal Credit reforms and challenge our largest employers to utilise the flexibility offered by it.

Helping Universal Credit claimants in work and on low pay to take on more hours and develop new skills is the surest answer to low pay Britain; not new legislation to restrict the ability of our largest companies to create new jobs.