Alan Milburn, the government's paradoxically named ‘social mobility tsar’, last week released the first annual report of his Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. The findings are not surprising: inequality is getting worse; the government will miss its child poverty targets by up to two million; 275,000 more children are now in absolute poverty, two-thirds of them in working households; youth unemployment is at a 20-year high. The report concludes: We see a danger that social mobility, having risen in the middle of the last century then flatlined in the end, could go into reverse in the first part of this century.
This year, for the first time, the UK government will devote 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income to foreign aid, finally meeting the target set in a 1970 UN General Assembly resolution. The budget of the Department for International Development has leapt from £8.8 billion in 2012 to £11.5 billion for 2013, about £183 per UK citizen. A report by Jonathan Foreman for the right-wing think tank Civitas has criticised the arbitrariness of the 0.7 per cent figure, and there has been a raft of scandals involving overpaid consultants, private equity firms and a lack of transparency at DFID last year, but the place of foreign aid in British politics appears assured. The big question, though, is who to give the money to.