“… attracting, retaining and rewarding the most talented people, regardless of their start in life, will help us create a thriving workplace and one where colleagues are able to bring their whole selves to work”.

We sat down with John Collins, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, and Anouska Ramsay, Director of Culture and Capability, to hear about the practical steps that Santander UK has taken to accelerate social mobility.

Read the full interview


  • Urgent action needed to stop regional inequalities widening and ‘generation covid’ being losers from recession

  • NEW Coalition of employers formed to HELP YOUNG PEOPLE AS GOVERNMENT IS URGED TO target support at areas with fewest opportunities

The latest unemployment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) paint a grim picture for young people across the UK, with “left-behind” areas particularly hard hit, according to new analysis by the Department for Opportunities.

The new research is accompanied by a warning from former Cabinet Minister Alan Milburn campaigners that without urgent action to protect young people from the worst impact of the coming recession, social mobility will fall and regional inequalities will widen.

Past recessions have hit young people hardest and even before the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the UK economy has been felt, this weeks ONS figures show one-fifth of those claiming out-of-work benefits are aged 18-24.

New analysis from the Department for Opportunities shows:

  • A clear link between areas that have previously been rated “social mobility coldspots” by the Governments own Social Mobility Commission and those that have high numbers of young people now claiming benefits. 

  • Young people in the ten Local Authorities ranked lowest on social mobility are 32% more likely to be claiming out of work benefits than those in the 10 ranked highest. 

  • Young people in former Labour “Red Wall” seats are 34% more likely to be claiming out of work benefits than the UK (11.8% compared to 8.8%). 

  • The North East and North West are the hardest hit English regions with over 10% of young people claiming out of work benefits, while the South West and South West have the lowest levels.

  • A young person in Cambridge (the Local Authority with the lowest claimant rate) is over seven times less likely to be claiming benefits than a young person in Blackpool (the highest).

Social mobility cold and hot spots are listed below. The ten local authority areas with the highest youth unemployment claimant count are Blackpool, Thanet, Burnley, Oldham, Hartlepool, Tendring, Wolverhampton, Bradford, South Tyneside, Croydon.

Recognising that youth unemployment is hitting disproportionately across the country, the Department for Opportunities – the new campaign arm of the Social Mobility Foundation – is bringing together a coalition of employers who are committed to doing all they can to help young people by creating and extending opportunities in hard hit areas.  

Ahead of the launch a number of employers have already pledged their support including Aviva, bp, Baker McKenzie, Bloomberg, Capital One, JLL and PwC. Together they employ over 61,000 people. These employers have retained their commitment to young people throughout the crisis by for example offering online work experience or continuing to recruit.

The Department for Opportunities is calling on the Government to target the support it has announced to help young people in the hardest hit areas. It is also urging government to immediately create a National Database of Opportunities so young people can see what opportunities are available in their local area or online via virtual placements. This will mean everything – from job opportunities to apprenticeships, kickstarter jobs to virtual work experience – is clearly visible in one place.

Calling for a joint effort not just from Government but also employers, Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation said:

Young people in ‘left behind’ parts of our country are already suffering disproportionately high unemployment. If past recessions are anything to go by ‘Generation Covid’ is at risk of being the biggest losers from the coming recession. Without urgent action social mobility will be hit and regional inequalities will widen. Avoiding a jobs catastrophe for this generation of young people, especially those in areas which were struggling before the crisis, requires urgent action by employers and government.

Government can help by targeting its employment and training support programmes on social mobility coldspots. It should set to work immediately to create a National Database of Opportunities so young people can see how to access opportunities.

Some businesses are already showing what can be done by extending support to young people. We are delighted a number of major employers have already backed our call and invite others to join a national coalition to create new opportunities for young people”

Employers who sign up to the coalition are committed to playing their part in creating opportunities for young people as this economic crisis deepens – be it through virtual mentoring or internships to donating laptops and computers to those most in need. Six employers have signed up to the coalition and are demonstrating their commitment to young people in a variety of ways. 

Kevin Ellis, PwC UK Chairman and Senior Partner, said;  “Employers can make a huge difference to opportunities for young people, and never has there been a greater need to help than now. That’s why PwC is delighted to join this coalition of employers supporting targeted interventions where the help is needed most. Supporting skills and social mobility is not just about those who come to work with us; it’s about working together as a coalition to reach a much wider group to help them progress as far as their talent and determination take them.”

Rupert MacInnes, VP External Affairs, Capital One UK, commented“Capital One UK is delighted to be a founder member of the Social Mobility Foundation’s coalition of employers. We along with other companies can play a vital role in developing skills and confidence in young people.  We have a number of programmes that specifically aim to address social mobility issues in our local communities, including delivering employability workshops and mentoring programmes.”     

Aviva:  continues to offer opportunity to young people through internships, coaching and mentoring as they prepare for the world of work, as well as opportunities to join the business through apprenticeships and graduate roles. They recognise the importance of helping each generation to get their first step into the workplace, and that this has never been more important.

Baker Mackenzie:  Provide insight days and application workshops through a number of social mobility initiatives; offer work experience to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds; have representatives across the firm that act as mentors and as contact points for individuals to reach out to for advice; and recruitment processes which help find candidates from all backgrounds.

Bloomberg: recent partnerships include the creation of Sutton Trust Online, a virtual summer school programme which is helping 6000 high achieving, low income students access Higher Education; Startup, a targeted mentoring programme that connects talented young people with Bloomberg’s employees, expertise and opportunities; and the Bloomberg apprenticeship programme which promotes diversity of talent and innovation from within.

bp: committed to providing opportunities for young people, particularly those from less advantaged backgrounds, to experience the world of work. Support includes virtual mentoring, work experience, insight talks and internships as well as continuing to hire new graduate. bp also worked with the National Business Response Network to donate laptops to areas of greatest need to support home learning as the country went into lockdown.

Capital One UK: Operates a number of CSR initiatives focused on social mobility with targeted schools close to UK offices in Nottingham and Islington. Programmes include their ‘Pathways’ employability workshops, a mentoring programme called ‘Changing Futures’, and sponsorship of The Sutton Scholars programme in Nottingham.

JLL:  Undertake extensive skills and education work with young people via their comprehensive Communities programme. JLL have both an apprentice and graduate programme, actively targeting a wide range of universities, schools and colleges. Through the One+1 work experience programme for every young person that has connections to the industry, JLL also offered work experience to someone with no connections.

PwCExpanded their work experience programme this year providing 1,800 opportunities to those from disadvantaged backgrounds virtually and developed a PwC UK Employability Skills Toolkit .PwC support young people and their parents/carers by offering resources to support learning at home. Opened an office in Bradford providing 134 jobs and apprenticeships and are the Cornerstone Employer. Expanded routes into PwC to cover apprenticeships, school leaver programmes, degree apprenticeships and graduate programmes growing their technology degree apprenticeship programmes, to enable students from disadvantaged backgrounds to build a career in technology.



  1. The Department for Opportunities is the campaign arm of the Social Mobility Foundation which helps thousands of disadvantaged young people each year access university and professional careers.

  2. A short film launching this campaign can be viewed here

  3. Social mobility rankings come from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s Social Mobility Index (, 16 June 2016, link)

Top 10

Bottom 10




Tower Hamlets



Kensington and Chelsea



Hammersmith and Fulham










West Somerset

  1. Notes on the research

  • 18-24 claimant count rose by around 30,000 this last quarter, raises the claimant count in that age group to 540,000. More here.

  • All claimant count figures for nations, regions, local authorities and constituencies come from NOMIS’ claimant count by sex and age statistics (NOMIS, 16 July 2020, link)

  • For English local authorities, social mobility ranks and number of claimants aged 18-24 are correlated with a correlation coefficient of 0.20. This means that the better the social mobility ranking of a local authority, the fewer claimants it has on average. The t-statistic is 3.58. Since 3.58>1.96, the correlation is statistically significant at the 5% confidence level.

  • In calculating the “Red Wall” claimant count percentage, we took the mean claimant count % of 44 seats that have been designated as former red wall seats. The mean of these 44 seats was a claimant count proportion of 11.8%.

  • In comparing the ten best and ten worst English local authorities for social mobility, the mean claimant count % for each set of ten was taken and the two means compared to one another. The top ten local authorities had a mean claimant proportion of 8.56%, while the bottom ten had a mean claimant proportion of 11.32%.

  • A full spreadsheet of all the figures used in these calculations can be found here.

  1. About the Employer coalition: Members of the coalition are committed to at least one of these three broad principles: 

  • Creating opportunities for young people – be that through online mentoring or virtual work experience, apprenticeships, traineeships, ‘kickstarterjobs or graduate recruitment. 

  • Supporting young people to work from home – through donating laptops, computers or offering other practical support to young people in need. 

  • Going the extra mile for the areas most in need of support – working with the Department for Opportunities to identify how you can expand opportunities in these areas. 



  • Polling shows 40 per cent of children on low incomes do not have a quiet place to study
  • Better-off families three times as likely to use private tutors during school shut-down
  • Universities urged to take social background of students into account in deciding places


The Department for Opportunities, the campaign arm of the Social Mobility Foundation, has published a YouGov poll showing 40 per cent of children from low income households – those with incomes of less than £20,000 a year – do not have a quiet room in which they can study during the Coronavirus shut down. This compares to just 19 per cent among children in households with income of more than £70,000 a year.


Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the SMF, said these inequities could impact how students are graded at GCSE and A Level.  He urged universities to help offset the disadvantages that lower income students face by placing greater emphasis on contextual admission procedures in deciding who would get a university place.


The same survey shows that 20 per cent of better-off households are either already using private tutors or are likely to do so during the school shut down, compared to just 7 per cent of low income households.


The disadvantages become even more apparent when asked how much each household was willing to pay for private tutors, with a quarter (24%) of those who are considering private tuition even willing to spend upwards of £100 a week.


Classrooms across the UK closed on Friday 20th March and parents have since been grappling with home-schooling their children. Although the Government announced last week that exams have been cancelled and teachers will instead estimate student grades based on mock exams and coursework, GCSE and A-level results are likely to reflect educational advantages at home.


ONS data shows that 10 per cent of UK households – mainly the poorest – do not have access to the internet.


The Social Mobility Foundation works with thousands of disadvantaged young people every year helping them overcome the barriers they face to access highly selective Universities and careers in the professions.


Universities have the ability to make contextual offers to students – offering a place to students with lower grades in recognition of their personal circumstances – however the practice is not widespread. Many of the Universities who do make contextual offers do not advertise the fact widely, meaning students from disadvantaged backgrounds are unaware that they may stand a chance of a place they may consider out of reach.


Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation said:


“Covid-19 is facing our country with an unprecedented challenge.  The Government is rightly focused on minimising the number of people impacted by the pandemic and its decision to close schools and scrap exams is the right one. 


“Its always been the case that young people do not compete on a level playing field. This new data makes clear that missing months of schooling will hit children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who do not have access to a quiet space to study or private tutors, harder than others.


“The risk is that too many low income students, having to study in cramped noisy conditions, will gain lower grades than they might otherwise have done.


“Universities can help offset these disadvantages by taking these inequities into account and making contextual offers the norm as they move to admitting new students later this year.”


The Department for Opportunities will be contacting all UK universities with the new data and campaigning for them to enhance their contextual offer procedures ahead of admissions later this year.


Teachers and researchers have long been aware of the impact of the “summer slide” – where the prolonged summer break each year has a cumulative effect on educational outcomes. The six-week summer break sees children from low incomes fall behind on key measures and is seen as a significant contributor toward the attainment gap between the richest and poorest children.


With children now potentially out of school for five months, instead of the usual six-week summer break, the impact on children from lower-income backgrounds could be even higher.


Today’s polling is backed up by a survey of 2,215 Year 12/S5 and Year 13/S6 young people who are taking part in programmes ran by the Social Mobility Foundation where 28 per cent indicate they do not have access to a quiet place to study and 52 per cent of Year 13/S6 students express anxiety about the transition from school to university.


Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation said:


“We know schools are doing all they can to support young people with online coursework but it is clear from these figures that many young people will not be able to access quiet places to study.


“We are asking Universities to expand or introduce contextual offers – recognising that not all young people enjoy the opportunities open to others – private or grammar school education, personal tutors, a stable home life. As students across the UK are expected to study at home Universities must recognise that studying in cramped conditions and without the support of university educated parents or tutors will have a detrimental impact on the grades of disadvantaged students.


“Our survey of young people shows 52 per cent are worried about the impact a five-month gap between school and starting university will have on their ability to adapt to university life. Its already tough for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds with no family history of going to university to cope with the shift and this is reflected in retention rates.


“With a potential five-month gap from school, losing the focus of exams and with many having to provide unpaid childcare to younger siblings – its clear that universities will have to work harder than ever to ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds are supported to settle and stay in university.


“The Social Mobility Foundation works with around 2,000 disadvantaged young people every year. We know first-hand the challenging home life that many young people face. Despite this, through our support and access mentors and work experience, they go on to the best Universities in the UK and move into professional jobs.”


*The YouGov poll was undertaken between 19th – 23rd March 2020, with a total sample size was 1,139 parents with school age children. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


Full results can be viewed here


*Survey of Social Mobility Foundation participants took place between 24th March and 2nd April 2020 with 2215 young people taking part.


The people in our poster are real people with real stories.

Out-dated hiring policies reject talented, passionate, hard-working individuals who have not been given the opportunity to show what they can offer due to unconscious bias. A name, where you come from or what university you went to does not depict what an individual can offer.

The ‘CV’s Aren’t Working’ campaign gives people who have experienced barriers to social mobility a platform to tell their story of hardship or success.

Read their stories on our website. Can you spot them in our poster?


A huge thank you to the inspiring young people from our programme who appeared on @RidgeOnSunday just now.

Young people like them are finding school closures and exam cancellations particularly hard. They must not lose out in the new plans for summer assessment.



Our new survey of 863 Social Mobility Foundation students, aged 16–18, revealed that:

❗️ 73% of students are anxious about cancelled exams

#Ridge @RidgeOnSunday

Powerful point from a Year 13 student to @SophyRidgeSky that the ability to sit exams is to take your own future into your hands, rather than someone else controlling whether you go to university, for example. No surprise that 64% of young ppl report poorer #mentalhealth. #Ridge

❗️Don’t miss @RidgeOnSunday today❗️

⏰ 8:30–9:30am
🎬 The unequal impact of school closures on young people
📊 Our new data on student attitudes
🗣 Students from our Aspiring Professionals Programme
#️⃣ #Ridge

The closure of schools and cancellation of exams affects millions of students, but not all equally.

@SophyRidgeSky has investigated this, talking to young people + gathering data with @SocialMobilityF. Her report will feature in the show.

📺 @SkyNews
⏰ 8.30am Sunday
#️⃣ #Ridge