Solving the poverty of aspiration

15 December 2017

There is a fracture line running deep through our labour and housing markets and our education system. Those on the wrong side of this divide are losing out and falling behind.” These words from Alan Milburn in the latest State of the Nation report paints a depressing picture of how that fracture line works and highlights the lack of a holistic strategy to bring about significant and lasting positive change.

At Good Things Foundation, we work in both digital and social inclusion, reaching into some of the country’s poorest communities through thousands of local partners. We see first-hand that digital exclusion runs along the same fracture line. Those facing the greatest barriers are also most likely to be excluded from the opportunities presented by the digital world – but this doesn’t have to be the case. In an increasingly digital society, it’s fundamental that everyone should have affordable access to the internet and everyone should know how to use it. It’s a foundation of a civilised society – just like reading, writing and literacy was 100 years ago.

Our local partners in the Online Centres Network support adults facing one or multiple disadvantages. One third don’t have a qualification, and many are long-term unemployed. All too often we pick up the pieces for people who have been failed by the formal systems. This means it is equally important to focus on aspiration as well as digital skills and understanding. While helping people with skills and confidence so they can find work is vital, if that work isn’t fulfilling for whatever reason then we haven’t succeeded in helping them to improve their lives. We can do more.

The Government’s new Digital Skills Partnership strategy board, which I am a member of, is in its early days. We’re working hard to develop an understanding of where people want to go next once we’ve picked up the pieces. To see digital skills not as binary – low skills for some and high skills for others – but as a continuum which anyone can aspire to move along. One thing I know for sure is that within the Online Centres Network it really is people and trusted relationships that make the difference. People supporting other people, listening, empowering, enabling, helping to grow self-esteem and confidence. We can all do more, we can help more people aspire to better jobs, better skills, and better lives, and a digital foundation for everyone is part of the holistic strategy this country needs.

Helen Milner OBE, Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation @helenmilner @GoodThingsFdn

 

 

This article was published in Reform’s social mobility conference brochure on the 12th December 2017. You can view the brochure here.

 

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