Headlines: August 2nd, 2004

A special ‘state of the nation’ assessment of social injustice in Britain says the Government has been good on poverty but not so good on inequality, better on income inequality than on wealth inequality, has helped working parents but done less for poor people without children and although it has worked to cut crime the poorest are still more likely to suffer crime and the fear of crime.The study is published today by the Institute for Public Policy Research, ten years after its groundbreaking Commission on Social Justice, which was set up at the request of the late John Smith. The new audit is the first part of ippr’s work on Rethinking Social Justice, a project assessing how Britain has changed since the 1994 Commission and setting out new policy directions for the decade ahead. The report says Britain has become fairer in the last ten years, with increased employment rates. The commitment to reducing child poverty has been successful so far and the nation is healthier, living longer and experiencing far less crime than a decade ago.

But it says the country is still far from being a fair and just society. The social class and ethnicity of parents still influences life-chances and democratic participation is falling. The study finds that women are still more likely to live in poverty and that the proportion of wealth held by the wealthiest 10 per cent of the population has increased from 47 to 54 per cent over the last ten years.

A final report will be published in November covering democratic and civic participation, crime, migration and the challenges posed by advances in genetic science as well as looking at John Smith’s original challenges of poverty, prosperity and inequality, social mobility and life chances.

Nick Pearce, director of the ippr, said despite the boldness of pledges to end child poverty and on the expansion of investment in public services, the Government did not consistently articulate and publicly advocate a fairer, more equal Britain. The next five years were likely to be politically critical.