Appointment of Chair, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission - Education Committee Contents

Appendix 2: Memorandum by the Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office

Chair- Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission



The Welfare Reform Act, which received Royal Assent on 8 March 2012, provides for the establishment of a Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. This Commission will be an Advisory Non Departmental Public Body established to monitor progress, by Government and others in society, against the objectives of improving social mobility and reducing child poverty. In doing so, it will consider the broad range of child poverty, life chances and social mobility indicators, set out in the Social Mobility and the Child Poverty Strategies. It will publish annual independent report/s to Government on progress made towards improving social mobility and reducing child poverty. It will consist of a Chair, a Deputy Chair and up to 7 members, two of whom will be appointees of the Scottish and Welsh Governments (one each).

Child Poverty Strategies

The Child Poverty Strategy 'Tackling the Causes of Disadvantage and Transforming Families' Lives' sets out the framework to tackle child poverty from 2011-2014, and provides this Government's first step towards laying out a new approach for ending child poverty. It focuses on a broad set of policies that target the drivers of poverty and incentivises action, and is founded on the understanding that poverty is not just about income and must also build the wider life chances of children to increase opportunity and aspiration.

The Government aims to reduce child poverty across the United Kingdom. However, there is recognition that many of the policy levers which are needed to reduce child poverty are the responsibility of the Devolved Administrations and that many of the actions outlined in the strategy will only apply to England. Each of the Devolved Administrations is responsible for producing their own strategy on child poverty and for taking action in those areas where policy is devolved.

The Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland sets out the Scottish Government's approach to tackling child poverty. It makes clear that tackling child poverty is a long term undertaking, with many factors influencing child poverty levels. It highlights the case that the causes and effects of poverty and inequality are complex and multi-dimensional, and require a range of interventions and responses. These must address the underlying causes of poverty, not just the symptoms, as poverty is about much more than a lack of income. On this basis, the strategy sets out 2 main aims in respect to tackling child poverty. They are: to maximise household resources; and to improve children's wellbeing and life chances. The strategy focuses on policy matters that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers, and sets out a range of policies that will be applied over the course of the strategy.

The Child Poverty Strategy for Wales sets out the Welsh Government's vision and strategic objectives for reducing child poverty in Wales. These are to: reduce the number of families living in workless households; improve the skills of parents and young people living in low income households so they can secure well-paid employment; and reduce inequalities that exist in health, education and economic outcomes of children and families by improving the outcomes of the poorest.

The strategy gives a clear account of what the Welsh Government can achieve in helping to reduce poverty with a specific focus on policies devolved to them. The strategy sets out a distinctive Welsh approach to the provision of public services that can address the long-term root causes of poverty.

Social Mobility Strategy

The Social Mobility Strategy "Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers" set out the Government's vision of a socially mobile country where no-one is prevented from fulfilling their potential by the circumstances of their birth, and established improving social mobility as the principal goal of the Government's social policy.

The strategy focuses on relative inter-generational social mobility—the extent to which people's success in life is determined by who their parents are—and aims to break the link between social background and outcomes at every stage of life: from the Foundation Years through school and the transition into adulthood and work.

The strategy developed a set of leading indicators of long-term improvements in social mobility, looking at the gaps by social background in outcomes at each life stage. These have been included in Departmental Business Plans, ensuring that social mobility is placed at the heart of Whitehall policymaking and giving the public the information necessary to hold the Government to account.

The Key Requirements of the Post of Chair

The Chair will be required to:

  • establish the Commission as an influential and credible voice on social mobility and child poverty;
  • ?lead the Commission and set its agenda; chair meetings;
  • ?ensure that the Commission provides, and publishes, the requested advice and/or research in its annual progress report/s to Government; and
  • ?be an advocate and challenger to external institutions for the social mobility agenda.

In order to fulfil these, the Chair must be able to:

  • Demonstrate commitment and success in improving long-term outcomes for children and/or social mobility;

  • Demonstrate a very high level of organisational leadership, providing outstanding strategic direction and delivery in either the public or private sector; and

  • Demonstrate that they have a proven record in building and sustaining effective working relationships with a range of stakeholders.

Role and Person Specification

Role specification

The Chair will need to ensure the Commission fulfils its remit, as set out in legislation, by:

  • Establishing the Commission, identifying and securing Ministerial agreement to the key priorities for the Commission, and setting them out in an annual Business Plan;
  • Leading the Commission, setting its agenda and chairing meetings to provide the best possible progress report/s on the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Strategies and targets;
  • Ensuring the Commission responds appropriately, effectively, and in a timely manner to requests for advice by the Minister/s of the Crown;
  • Being an advocate for the social mobility agenda: holding to account and challenging key institutions in areas such as Higher Education and the professions;
  • Building and sustaining effective working relationships with a range of stakeholders, including Ministers, senior Government officials, representatives from local communities and experts in the field;
  • Being the public spokesperson for the Commission;
  • Utilising the expertise and experience of Commission members and securing Ministerial agreement to its commissioning;
  • Ensuring active engagement by all members in the business of the Commission, including encouraging them to sustain their knowledge and understanding of the issues, reviewed through an annual appraisal of each member.

Person specification

Candidates were also expected to demonstrate:


  • An in-depth and up-to-date understanding and knowledge of issues relating to social mobility and/or child poverty, including the wider policy context;
  • A track record of strong negotiation, persuasion, advocacy and diplomacy skills in challenging and influencing high-level decision makers in a range of public, private and/or voluntary organisations;
  • The ability to think strategically about wider social mobility and child poverty issues, working with a range of individuals and communities to set strategic direction within the wider policy context to achieve results;
  • Excellent leadership and interpersonal skills to manage differing, strongly held opinions and agree clear, unequivocal ways forward;
  • Excellent communication and networking skills to communicate with, and gain the confidence of, a variety of audiences: Ministers, researchers, those in the social mobility and child poverty sectors and media representatives in a professional and credible manner; and
  • Personal integrity, with commitment to maintaining high standards in public life and promoting sound corporate governance.


  • Experience of working with, and delivering effective outcomes for children, young people and/or families.

Terms and Conditions

The appointments will be made by Ministers for a period of no longer than five years, subject to a satisfactory annual review.

These posts are unremunerated. However, reasonable expenses will be reimbursed, including travel expenses and subsistence. As a post holder appointed for a limited duration, you will not be eligible for compensation upon the ending of your appointment.


The process has been managed by the Commission Team in the Child Poverty Unit, jointly sponsored by the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Treasury. As with all public appointments the process for the appointment of the Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is required to follow the Code of Practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA), and an OCPA assessor, Olivia Grant, has overseen the process, including being part of the sift and interview panel.

The keeping with Cabinet Office guidance, the post was advertised on their public appointments website. Other activities included:

  • Advertising it on the Knowledge Hub, administered by the Local Government Association;
  • All Individuals on the Register of Interest for Public Appointments in Scotland were contacted;
  • links were made on the Scottish Government website and it was also published on the Employability and Tackling Poverty Learning Network;
  • The advert was also directly sent to organisations across Wales that have links with Welsh Government in relation to Child Poverty.
  • In addition, over 900 stakeholders working in the social mobility and child poverty areas were also contacted via email which included a link to the public appointments website.

The Selection Process

Sifting of applications

The panel met to consider applications from 8 candidates, each of which provided evidence and examples of their ability to meet the criteria as set out in the role and person specification. The panel unanimously selected a shortlist of 4 for panel interview. References on the shortlisted candidates were also obtained. Ministers were advised of the successful candidates.

Final Interviews

The panel included consisted of: Olivia Grant, Office for the Commission for Public Appointments Assessor, who was the Chair of the panel; Sue Owen, Director General, Strategy Group Department for Work and Pensions; Tom Jeffery Director General, Children, Young People and Families Department for Education; and Caleb Deeks, Head of Deputy Prime Minister's Research and Analysis Division, Cabinet Office. A note taker from the Child Poverty Unit was also present.

The candidates started the interview with a short presentation on: "How would you lead the Commission to contribute to the government's goals of ending child poverty and improving social mobility?

Following this were questions which covered the following areas:

  • Why the candidate had applied for the post;
  • Strategic thinking and direction setting;
  • Leadership skills and interpersonal skills;
  • Negotiating, persuasion and advocacy section;
  • Personal integrity and standards of public life;
  • Conflicts of interest; and
  • Time commitment.

All the candidates were assessed against the key criteria. 2 candidates were assessed as being appointable as Chair and our preferred candidate for the post of Chair is Alan Milburn.

June 2012

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Prepared 12 July 2012