BRADFORD is one of the worst areas for social mobility in the country and families face being locked into disadvantage for generations unless it is urgently tackled.

That's the warning from the Social Mobility Commission, which has called on regional leaders to draw up tailored, sustained and local programmes to boost social mobility in the worst areas.

It also wants the Government to extend its current Opportunity Areas programme – which gives support to 12 councils – to include several more authorities identified as the areas with the most entrenched disadvantage.

Bradford ranks second place in the country for areas with the least social mobility, after Chiltern in the South East. 

Other places in the North include Hyndburn, Gateshead, Blackpool, Oldham, Bolton, Stockton-on-Tees and Kirklees among others.

The report adds that in these areas, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and who are entitled to free school meals have little chance of making a better life for themselves or their families and earn much less than their more affluent peers.

Individuals aged 28 from disadvantaged families in these council areas earn on average just over half the amount of those from similar backgrounds in the most mobile areas, the study also found.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “I think it’s a national scandal that you can be disadvantaged in life from birth depending on your postcode. 

"Covid-19 has just served to emphasise this divide with people in lower socio-economic groups much more likely to contract the virus. This health pandemic should serve to spur on the government to seriously invest in reducing health inequalities. Here in Bradford we’re fully committed to turning this around.

"To support our work in education the Opportunity Area funding has been very welcome as a way of supporting disadvantaged pupils, but we need more financial investment from government over a sustained period to help tackle the deep-rooted poverty that limits opportunities for many.”

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse, said the challenge of poor social mobility is a result of the education and wider barriers to opportunity in many communities -  with three quarters of the least socially mobile areas in England in the Northern Powerhouse.

He said: “The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, and now the Social Mobility Commission, have both rightly called for the significant and dramatic extension of opportunity areas across the North. 

"Our previous research has already highlighted the fact that long-term disadvantage has a much greater impact on education attainment for both girls and boys in the North, particularly at secondary school. 

"That is why, as we approach the spending review, it is vital to ensure Pupil Premium is properly funded and targeted at the most disadvantaged children. By focusing support at closing the disadvantage gap, schools will be better equipped to help pupils swim against the tide of issues affecting their families and help them realise their true potential."

Interim co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission Steven Cooper described the findings as “very challenging”.

“They tell a story of deep unfairness, determined by where you grow up. It is not a story of North versus South or urban versus rural; this is a story of local areas side by side with vastly different outcomes for the disadvantaged sons growing up there,” Mr Cooper said.

The research, carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO), found that disadvantaged young adults in areas with high social mobility can earn twice as much as their counterparts in areas where it is low – over £20,000 compared to under £10,000.

Moreover, pay gaps between deprived and affluent young adults in areas with low social mobility are 2.5 times larger than those in areas with high social mobility.

The study also found that in areas of low social mobility, up to 33 per cent of the pay gap is being driven by family background and local market factors more than educational achievement.

It added that “cold” social mobility spots often have fewer professional and managerial occupations, fewer outstanding schools, higher levels of deprivation and moderate population density.

Councils with the lowest earnings for disadvantaged individuals include Bradford, Hyndburn, Gateshead, Thanet, West Devon, Sheffield, Malvern Hills and Kensington and Chelsea.

Professor Lindsey Macmillan, director of the CEPEO at UCL and research fellow at the IFS, said: “This new evidence highlights the need for a joined up-approach across Government, third sector organisations, and employers.

“The education system alone cannot tackle this postcode lottery – a strategy that considers the entire life experience, from birth through to adulthood, is crucial to ensuring fairer life chances for all”.

Laura van der Erve, research economist at the IFS and co-author of the report, added: “Not only do children from disadvantaged backgrounds have considerably lower school attainment and lower adult earnings than their peers from more affluent backgrounds, we also find large differences in the outcomes of children from disadvantaged backgrounds across the country.

“This highlights that children’s opportunities in England are still defined by both the family they were born into and the area they grew up in.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “The needs of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable remain central to all our work and we continue to invest heavily to close the attainment gap through initiatives like the £1 billion Covid catch up fund and pupil premium funding, and through investment in childcare and early years education.

“On top of this we are investing £90 million in 12 Opportunity Areas to improve skills and outcomes for thousands of young people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of England, with a focus this year on rolling out initiatives that have worked in other areas to help other places tackle similar challenges.”