Over the weekend, news broke that Alan Milburn, Chair of the government Social Mobility Commission, had resigned, as had the other three members of the team, citing inability to turn government rhetoric on social mobility into action. Speaking to Andrew Marr, Milburn claimed ‘we’re not making the progress we should to address these deep divides in our labour market, our housing market or indeed our education system.’ Milburn suggested that whilst there may be much good intention on the part of individuals within government, these words never amount to action.

Prior to this resignation, the Social Mobility Commission last week produced their fifth annual report; State of the Nation. In this, the commission uses a multidimensional exploration of social mobility to compare Local Authorities in the UK and their potential for mobility amongst residents. The report’s conclusion suggests that to achieve a less divided Britain, significantly more redistributive efforts would be needed, in particular concerning how employment, education and housing opportunities are divided across the country.

In terms of housing in particular, the report identified that whilst ten years ago, home ownership amongst those under-44 was 17% higher than it is in 2017. What is more, 34% of first time buyers now rely on parental support to purchase their home, up from 20% in just seven years. Comparatively, those unable to rely on parental support face growing prices in the private rental sector. The Social Mobility Commission warns that the problem with poor housing today is duplicitous; lack of good housing is a barrier to social mobility as people remain in pockets of deprivation due to lack of move on options, whilst those living in poor housing during education will, on average, do worse at school than their peers in better quality housing.

Providing further context to the root of the mobility problem, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation analysis of UK Poverty this week joins the body of evidence attesting to the government’s failure to radically alter the fortune of many starting life in poverty. The report, UK Poverty 2017, notes that whilst in the last 20 years, progress has been made to support those who were most typically at risk of poverty, very little has been achieved in reducing poverty in working families. Moreover, some of this progress is being undone; the report points out that the introduction of Housing Benefit paved the way to breaking the connection between poverty and poor housing, but freezes and cuts to this threaten to overturn any progress.

JRF also notes that those in the poorest quintile of the population are more likely to live in poor-quality, overcrowded or insecure housing than better off families. What is more, the excess burden on those below the poverty line stretches further; the report identifies correlation between poverty and tension in family relationships, as children in lower-income households are more likely to report quarrelling with their parents. The proportion of couples reporting ‘relationship distress’ is also much higher in the poorest fifth of the population and decreases up the income ladder. Those on low incomes are also more likely to separate, and single parents are more likely to end up in poverty than those without custody.

Earlier this year, the government published its White Paper on housing, where Theresa May refers to ‘our broken housing market’, an expression frequently cited. However, perhaps it is the latter part of the sentence that would have done better from such public attention, as May acknowledged that this flawed market amounts to ‘one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today’. As research continues to show, housing is pinnacle as a propeller to progress for Britain’s low-income families. Clearly, the UK has a growing social mobility problem, which the housing market perpetuates, and, without rapid action, will continue to do so. Yet, as the weekend has also shown, the will of government to act upon this in any meaningful way is flagging.