Show 75 – Social Mobility Live, 2018

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Show 75 was produced in partnership with the UK’s Ministry of Justice, to coincide with Social Mobility Live, a two week programme consisting of five events taking place around the UK, marking a year since the launch of the Ministry’s inaugural Social Mobility Action Plan, the first social mobility plan of any government department that explores how the department, the Civil Service and external partners are helping individuals from all backgrounds achieve their potential.

This was in fact the second time that we’d recorded an episode on this topic with the Ministry of Justice. The previous one was on Show 58 of the series when they launched their original plan and so we were thrilled that we had been invited back to cover this important issue again.

Russell Goldsmith was joined in studio by an expert panel covering the public and private sectors, plus civil society:

  • Shaun McNally CBE, Chief Executive, Legal Aid Agency and Social Mobility Champion at the Ministry of Justice
  • Jenny Baskerville, Co-Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality, KPMG
  • Nicholas Cheffings, Partner and Past Chair, Hogan Lovells and Chair of PRIME, an alliance of law firms across the UK committed to improving access to the legal profession through work experience, and Chair of Making the Leap, a charity that aims to transform the lives of young people by empowering them with the skills behaviour and attitudes to work their way out of poverty and provide for themselves and their families
show 75 guests

L-R: Jenny Baskerville, Russell Goldsmith, Nicholas Cheffings & Shaun McNally CBE

Shaun began the discussion by setting the scene on why social mobility is still such an important issue, not just on the Ministry’s agenda, but also for him personally.  He said that he believes that “as leaders, we’ve got real responsibility to ensure that the workforce reflects the society that we serve. There is a real moral case to ensure that we are truly representative of society and we need to ensure that we recruit and develop people based on their potential not just polish and there’s a real issue around cultural capital. How do people see that there is a role for them within the Civil Service?”  He added that it’s a real passion for him as he didn’t go to a university. He grew up on a council estate and didn’t know on the first day that he turned up at 56 Westgate Road, the county court in Newcastle, what a career was going to mean for him, but he said that somebody saw something in him that he didn’t see. They asked him to raise his head up and to look beyond the horizons that he could see at the time. Shaun said that his horizon was based on possibly getting to Chief Clerk at Newcastle County Court and someone just said: “look to see what’s out there, you’ve got the potential – take advantage of the opportunities available to you.”   He added that “we as an employer will achieve better and better outcomes, better decision making, if we have got a truly diverse and inclusive workforce that is representative of the society that we serve.”

Jenny said that for her, it was similar to what Shaun’s had said and that it’s just a matter of fairness for her. She added: “I don’t really believe that it is fair that everyone doesn’t have the same opportunity to get on in life and just because of where you’ve been born or indeed what your parents did as a job, that that can dictate actually where you might actually end up in terms of profession and outcomes of life. I also think business is really waking up to the opportunities there are. So, talent is spread evenly across the country. We know that, and businesses are really taking note with the fact that if they want to have competitive advantage, if they want to be sustainable as a business, then there’s a wealth of talent out there that we’re really not tapping into. So, there’s a real business case as well.”

Nicholas had a similar view and said that it’s always been in his subconscious really as well because he was born into a working-class farming community in North East Lincolnshire and was the first [from his family] to go to university. He didn’t know anybody in law, but just wanted to do something different from what everybody else was doing and wasn’t really conscious about social mobility and really didn’t focus upon it until he was in a management leadership position, when he then had the opportunity to think more broadly in the way that we were discussing – what works best for business and what is just right and fair and you’re in a position to try and make a difference.  He said that they had a conversation Hogan Lovells, when they were looking to do more to increase BAME representation in the law profession.  They have made some good progress and had a meeting with The Sutton Trust, when someone from their team said: “of course, you do realise that actually it’s white working class boys who are most excluded from society.”  Nicholas said that ‘flicked a switch’, because he hadn’t really focused upon that and it hadn’t really been discussed, but it’s now much more conscious.

It’s a year since we discussed this topic on the csuite podcast with Shaun’s Social Mobility Champion predecessor Matthew Coats CB and so we asked Shaun to sum up what had been achieved in those past 12 months.

Shaun said that “we [the Ministry of Justice] were really committed at the time when Matthew set the plan, that it should be more than just words on a page, we had to translate that into action.”

Looking at the seven pillars that the plan was built upon, Shaun then gave some specific hard examples of what they had achieved:

  1. Raising awareness within young people in the communities – there has been an active schools outreach programme. From a slow start over a year ago, the Ministry of Justice now engaged with more than 30,000 pupils and has had over 700 volunteers across the Ministry of Justice.  Shaun said that more than just raising awareness with pupils within the schools – it’s helping them see the opportunities that are available for them across the Civil Service and it’s in more depth. So they help people with CV writing and prepare for interviews, but also thinking about what’s the next step?
  2. STEP into Justice – the Ministry of Justice has engineered and built a work experience programme where they have had over 200 pupils through a structured work experience programme within the Ministry of Justice
  3. Catapult Mentoring / In-reach work – referring to progression: how do people get on when they get in? The Ministry of Justice has developed a Catapult Mentoring scheme and has had over 250 people through it, which is more in depth than just mentoring – it’s sponsorship and it’s helping people to realise that they have got something to give and to help them in the way that, as Shaun explained, he was helped, to let them raise their head up and look to see what’s available. Shaun said that it’s a most rewarding experience and that he actually participated as a mentor with someone from Bradford and that is just an incredibly rewarding experience to see how he grew but also to get some feedback from him about what he wanted from Shaun himself.

Shaun said that the other element was to look at what the barriers were. He added: “We have to identify what the data was telling us. So, we’ve surveyed all the staff across the Ministry of Justice so we’re building the database to help inform whether or not what we’re doing is achieving the right outcomes. We’ve also taken it a step further, so we put a social mobility requirement in to the contracting process with suppliers, so they have to say what they’re doing to advance social mobility in their workplace and in the services that they provide for us. Within the Legal Aid Agency, we are very much leading the way in terms of strength-based recruitment. We want to move away from competence-based recruitment and we’re probably at the cutting edge of work that’s been done across government anywhere to look at success profiles.”

Finally, he said the other area is internal and external advocacy and that they have been really occupying the thought leadership space with regard to social mobility, which is why he was so pleased to be recognised and placed as the third organisation out of 100 in the in the Employer Index, that KPMG, were ranked first in.

Shaun said that he was also pleased to see that in Bernadette Kelly, the Permanent Secretary Champion, that they have a great advocate for social mobility across government.

In terms of whether organisations are going to start implementing in their procurement plans ways to check if suppliers do enough around Social Mobility too, Shaun said that “if you are looking to achieve the best outcomes and actually have organisations that are effective, are sustainable, then I do think you have to have a diverse and inclusive workforce that avoids any groupthink scenario and you have people from different backgrounds with different skills being able to contribute.”

Adding to that point, Nicholas said: “From the perspective of the legal profession, I think not necessarily so much on social mobility, but certainly in relation to gender diversity, one of the factors that has helped the momentum is clients of law firms saying, ‘What are you doing about diversity and inclusion?’, and it’s the same principle. When your customers, when your clients, are asking you the question, they really want to know the answer and they’re not going to be happy if you give them a bad answer, then it just tips the needle a little bit.”

Jenny echoed what had been said.  She added that both KPMG’s clients and suppliers are increasingly demanding more on what that are doing on the area of social mobility. She said that “At KPMG, we’ve had a longstanding sustainable procurement programme which has three pillars, one of which is social mobility- so social mobility, diversity more broadly as well and the environment and we ask our top suppliers sitting on that programme what actions they’re taking in the area of social mobility. It’s part of our request for proposal documents.  People need to document that. But actually, we also go further and have sessions with them, talk to them around the live issues of the day, so apprenticeships – we’ve had forums on that. We’ve had a data session with our suppliers, so Nik Miller from the Bridge Group came and presented to them and we’ve also talked to them about the Social Mobility Employer Index – David Johnston [OBE, Chief Executive, Social Mobility Foundation] came in and talked to them. So, all learning from one another because without sharing that best practice we can’t all move forward.”

Building on Jenny’s point, Shaun think there is a real push in terms of apprenticeships. He said that there is a government target that 2.3% of the workforce are engaged on apprenticeship programmes. But he believes the moral case is really strong that you have to ensure that you develop talent and you enable and create an environment that enables people to realise that potential and to be the best that they can be.

KPMG’s involvement in government initiatives on social mobility

Jenny said that KPMG has been committed to the issue of social mobility for over a decade. It started with the work on the Living Wage and their education outreach, but back in 2011, under the Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Nick Clegg (who is now Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation), there was an invitation to join the Social Mobility Business Compact, where organisations were asked to pledge to three different areas of work around work experience, recruitment and also around pipeline programmes, i.e., their apprenticeships.

Jenny said there were some good sessions happening but that the opportunity came back in 2014 for organisations to put themselves forward to become a Social Mobility Business Compact Champion.  Several organisations put themselves forward and after about an 18-month process, between 2014 to 2016, Jenny said that KPMG went through some very rigorous criteria – government set a series of commitments around outreach through to work placements through to what they were doing in recruitment, after which, KPMG become one of the 11 organisations that became a Champion, which she thinks was the start of their closer relationship with government on the issue of social mobility.

Since then, Jenny said that she has worked closely with the Cabinet Office on their socio-economic background measures. She added that KPMG also runs the Reimagine Challenge and that they did one specifically on social mobility with government. Through that, Jenny got to meet lots of colleagues across all different government departments who are doing a huge amount of work on social mobility and added that there’s the cross-governmental network.

Jenny said: “it’s been a really great opportunity for me to talk to other organisations because all the government departments are so different, like the Ministry of Justice and the great plan they they’ve got working on this, but yes sharing I guess a different perspective from a corporate environment too.”

The view from Civil Society

Nicholas gave us an update on how Making the Leap’s last twelve months had been and what the viewpoint from Civil Society was on how much the Public and Private sector are doing in this space.

He said that it’s been a good year for Making the Leap.  They have been working with a number of clients who are very committed to the Social Mobility agenda and that the Ministry of Justice is one of those. He said: “Let me take this opportunity to say that everything we’ve heard and everything we’re doing is absolutely fantastic and it is real role model stuff, so full marks and commendations to them for all of that.  It’s a difficult climate for charities right now.  Making the Leap is a charity. It has to be funded, and we work with organisations and the more we can do the better.”

Nicholas said if any listeners to the podcast are thinking ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ then they should know to get in touch with Making the Leap!

He also talked about their second Social Mobility Awards and that quality of the entries was absolutely fantastic.  He said that one of the reasons of setting up the awards was to raise the profile [of Social Mobility] and to get it more on the agenda of businesses in the private sector.  He added that it is happening but it’s a slow process and he thinks frankly one of the reasons for that, is social mobility is a little bit of a hidden agenda. Nicholas said: “As we know from everything we read in the press, business at large, in many cases, is still only just getting to terms with gender equality, and ethnicity is still an issue and a problem in a number of areas, so social mobility, for a lot of organisations I think, tends to be the thing that you come to when you think you’re starting to get on top of the other issues, recognising that there’s still work to be done and all of those.  So, I think that the raising of the profile, these kinds of podcasts, are absolutely critical, and the public sector can clearly lead and in many respects is leading.”

Nicholas added that the Prime Minister was very clear when she took up office that social mobility was high on her agenda.  However, he said that Brexit has inevitably been a high priority and it’s something that has meant that some of the attraction and the attention of the social mobility agenda has been dissipated, but there are individuals who are definitely committed to this in the public sector who are trying to make a difference. He said that Damian Hinds [Secretary of State for Education] has already made his mark and Justine Greening, who set up the Social Mobility Pledge is trying to get businesses across a number of different sectors to work together to try and share best practice, because we can achieve so much more by collaborating.


Shaun said that Brexit hadn’t impacted on the work the Ministry of Justice was doing in terms of social mobility. In fact, if anything, he said it had created additional opportunities, stating “when we look at where people who have come in on the Fast Stream, where they’re being deployed, when you’re looking at the skills required to help departments navigate through the policy issues that are required and some of the operational issues that will fall out from Brexit, then I think there has been real opportunities for people to develop their skills and to realise potential as a result of that process. I would also say though there is a real energy and enthusiasm behind social mobility and I haven’t seen that dissipate as a consequence of what’s been happening across the wider UK. We’ve got a thriving network. We’ve got 30 regional, effectively nexuses, in terms of work that’s being done, and the Northern Nexus is really starting to push ahead with the social mobility agenda within the regions and I think that’s a real positive step. “

Jenny added that whilst she supposed Brexit has provided opportunity within her organisation, they’ve also talked quite openly around how it shone a light on the social divisions within the UK and the fact that actually there is disparity regionally and that there is a number of people feeling that they’re not getting the opportunity that they deserve. She said that it really allowed us to provide a bit more focus and talk openly within her organisation as to why the UK needs to focus much more on this issue. Jenny said: “There is an economic imperative that we really make sure that everyone thrives in the best way possible. So, I guess that backdrop has also pushed us to drive more action too.”

Nicholas agreed that it was a really good point about shining a light. He thinks one of the distinguishing features about social mobility is it’s not always obvious, in fact very often it’s hidden. He said that “when people are looking for role models who have succeeded from similar experiences and similar backgrounds they don’t really know where to look. If you’re looking for a highly successful woman you can find one. If you’re looking for a highly successful black or Asian man, you can find one.  If you’re looking for somebody who’s going to come from the same background as you, who have the same challenges, they could be standing next to you. But you don’t actually realise it because social mobility is not something that’s often discussed.  I was having a conversation with a trainee in the legal profession recently and she said that she was very much welcomed by her new team and the partner in charge of the team said, just by way of an open conversation, “So which university did you go to?”. She came out with an answer. It was exactly the same university as he’d gone to. So, they then started talking about experiences at university. He had no idea that actually her background was so fundamentally different to his, the challenges that she had gone through to get to university and the actual different experiences she’d had in that social environment in university were poles apart and they never had that conversation.”

Building on Nicholas’s point, Shaun said that that’s where he thinks it’s so important for the work that’s been done to share our stories, to share people’s stories, so that they can see that, for example, if I can get to where I am now, anybody can.

At this point in the podcast, we heard from three people who have benefited from the various social mobility initiatives put in place by the Ministry of Justice:

Audio Insert

Jay Connolly: My name is Jay Connolly, and I’m originally from Liverpool. I am on a couple of different Ministry of Justice Social Mobility initiatives, which are the Catapult Mentoring Scheme, I am part of the MoJ Schools Programme and I was originally brought into the organisation by the Cabinet Office’s Fast Track Apprenticeship Schemes as well.  This opportunity means everything to me.  Working as a Project Manager in the MoJ Social Mobility Team, really tests me, pushes me, but have having good leaders and colleagues around me, allows me to be myself and to learn as much as I possibly can, which is essential in my age.

Aaliyah Abdinur: My name is Aaliyah, and in the UK, I go to London for school. I have benefited from the Ministry of Justice Social Mobility initiatives by what it has offered me and what I can take into the future. We focused on how we can attract people our own age, to join the Ministry of Justice. We produced a video of people who are in the apprenticeship right now and I will say it is something that I am very proud of and a learning experience that I know will benefit me in the future.

Usman Ali: My name is my Usman Ali, I’m from Bradford. I was born and bred in Yorkshire. The Ministry of Justice Social Mobility initiative has really been a catapult for me.  The support I received from the programme, the support and confidence I receive from the mentor and with advice I have received, it has really helped to broaden my horizons, and just realising in the Civil Service values. Working in an office, I was mainly restricted or confined to a set of values based on a micro environment. But being part of this initiative has shown me that we are part of a larger family and we are connected to a larger picture. It made me aware of opportunities available, and most importantly I think, I received many friends from this initiative and programme.

Aaliyah Abdinur: We have a quite a big group of seven people, but I was the only girl in that group so it kind of meant I was often pushed aside. So, the people there encouraged me to step up and take a back seat and from that the skill that I gained, was confidence because I knew that I couldn’t allow everyone else to do the work for me because we wouldn’t achieve the best possible end products.

Usman Ali: This opportunity has broadened my horizons and given me increase in self-confidence. My friends, my colleagues, my family have noticed that my confidence has come back. I feel comfortable in being myself now, which I was not before. I felt I had to conform to a certain characteristic or conform to a certain way of thinking or talking.

Aaliyah Abdinur: What I think this opportunity means to me is that I get first-hand experience in being in the real world. The fact that I have worked in a law firm for a duration of twelve weeks, every Wednesday, it gave me real world insight and because of being in this placement, I have decided that in A-level, I would like to take Government & Politics. What I thought it would be like, before I started my placement, if I am going to speak honestly and truthfully, I thought that there would be grey buildings, grey brown buildings and people looking into their computers looking dreary, but that is completely the opposite of what I saw. I saw a great work ethic. People talking to each other.

Jay Connolly: The advice I’d give to someone who is in my footsteps a few years ago would be to tell them not to put any sort of limit and belief on themselves. I think it’s important to think outside the box when it comes to planning your career too. I think also networking is essential, especially at a younger age. Speak to as many people and learn as much as you can while you can.

Aaliyah Abdinur: The advice I would give to other young people looking to gain similar skills that I have obtained through the Ministry of Justice initiative, is to take advantage of the fact that you are there, and you are given this opportunity that not a lot of people get and try to gain a lot of knowledge while being there.

Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index

KPMG was ranked No.1 in Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index and so we asked Jenny to talk about KPMG’s approach to social mobility and why she thought they came top in that index.  She said that they were obviously delighted at having got the top spot!

Jenny said: “There’s a huge amount of effort across the wider business community to address this issue in a more considered fashion. So, I guess it probably doesn’t surprise you that, as a bunch of accountants, we love data at KPMG! Back in 2014 we started to measure the socio-economic background of our workforce using a series of measures but parental occupation being the one that we use most consistently now, as Cabinet Office came out earlier in the year to say that’s the best measure to use, because unfortunately within the UK, what your parents did at the age of when you were 14, is really one of the biggest indicators of where you’ll end up in a life. So, a slightly depressing fact but very much still true. So, at KPMG we’ve used that data to really help us understand what’s the makeup of our organisation.  Actually, there are interventions that we we’ve introduced having an impact and we’ve started to see that they are so, particularly our school leaver population. We’ve gone from 12% to 18% being eligible for free school meals. We’ve had a much more targeted approach in terms of our outreach activity. We developed an algorithm with the group looking at a series of deprivation statistics, making sure that the schools that we were developing those long-term sustainable relationships with, were the ones that really needed it most and had that pool of talent that may be organisations where potentially missing.”

Jenny said that whilst KPMG changed pathways and have looked at those entry level recruitment stages, it’s also really important to think about the culture of your organisation and actually who’s then getting on. So, using the data that they now have on their workforce, they’ve been able to do some analysis looking at who’s staying, who’s been promoted, how long is it taking for colleagues to be promoted and actually, what’s going on within their own organisation, who’s being parachuted in as a lateral higher, for example, and is that improving their socio-economic diversity or not. She thinks that at the heart of it, it’s being able to use that robust data to tell a story as well as the qualitative conversations you might have with colleagues.

Lastly, Jenny said that none of this can be done alone adding: “We spend a lot of time working with experts in the field, working with other organisations like the ones here today, to really understand the challenges and the opportunities that we’ve all found to share that best practice. So, a lot more still to come from KPMG but I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made but there’s still more to do.”

Legal Profession & PRIME

Nicholas said that the headline is that he is very proud of what the legal profession has done, and he thinks in many respects it was ahead of the game. His own firm Hogan Lovells was in the Top 50 of the Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index and he thinks a disproportionately large number of law firms and members of PRIME are in the Top 50, so he believes that speaks very powerfully to what is happening, but there’s no question that there’s more to be done and he said that the statistics are very clear on that, quoting the most recent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission report that found 71% of senior judges went to independent schools., which he said just should not be the case and cannot be right. Further stats that Nicholas shared were:

  • 65% of people believe that who you know is more important than what you know
  • 75% of people think that family background influences life chances in Britain.

In the case of the latter, Nicholas said that they may well be right, many of them but the point is they shouldn’t be, and it shouldn’t be happening like that. He added: “what we collectively are trying to do is level the playing field. And one thing that is really really important to this entire debate and conversation is that one thing we are not doing is looking to lower standards. There’s an enormous pool of talent as we have heard from the other contributors to this conversation already and what we’re doing is trying to achieve the means by which they can have access to opportunities because if you give them opportunities then they can succeed. And frankly some of the people who have had to face the kind of challenges we’ve been hearing about have got extraordinary resilience. So one of the things that the legal profession and PRIME have been doing is focusing upon how you get away from certain educational standards in a very binary sense so that you can only get into the profession at all if you have got three A’s [at A ‘level] and a 2.1 [University degree], because actually if you look at something like contextual recruitment, which PRIME has offered to all of its members, what are we doing there is looking at their educational performance in the context of their social background and the educational institution that they went to. So, if you get three A’s from a school where everybody gets three A’s, you could be amazing, you could just have astonishing support and be reasonably good but not amazing.  If you actually get a B and two Cs from a school where it averages two D’s and an E, then you probably are amazing. And what you then need is somebody to open a door for you. And once that door is opened then you will just storm straight through it. So, you know, there are still a lot of things that we’re doing. We’ve done much better as a profession in bringing people with social mobility backgrounds, so to speak, into the profession. The challenge now is making sure they stay, and Hogan Lovells and seven other law firms recently commissioned a report from the Bridge Group, who we’ve already heard about, who are doing great work in this field and that was about retention.  And, with the best will in the world, there are still some challenges because of the culture and it’s not that the culture is bad, or the culture is negative, or the culture is not welcoming, it’s very welcoming. But how do you judge success.  Increasingly in the legal profession it’s, “can you win new business?”, not “Are you just a brilliant lawyer?”. “Can you add to the overall business? Can you win new business? How do you go about winning new business?”. Well partly it’s just being very comfortable in social surroundings. What does that mean? Does that mean contributing to a conversation where people are talking about what they did at the weekend and somebody went sailing and you’ve never been anywhere near a yacht. What are you going to say when somebody then says to you, “So what did you do this weekend?”. And that’s just making people feel that they can be themselves and be very comfortable and not alienated and also, I think not making them feel like they have to change in order to fit. So, this kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight, and you can’t just flick switches, because if it was easy, I think we’d all have done it long time ago, but definitely work in progress but pleased with what profession is doing so far.”

Building on what Nicholas said, Shaun said that believes as leaders, we’ve got a real responsibility to challenge ourselves to challenge each other and to learn from others and use the evidence base to help effect change. He believes by working together collaboratively and collectively and building partnerships, we can really make a difference. He said: “When I reflect back, as Nicholas just pointed out, about having those exclusive rather than inclusive conversations.  When I was appointed as Area Director in Merseyside, I remember how I felt and people around me, all of the legal advisers within the courts, were talking about their times in university and I felt excluded because I didn’t have the same experience of them.  And to be honest, at the time, I felt like a bit of an imposter in that role. I think by sharing that emotion and remembering how it felt for me, then that really should bring us so short and really make us more aware of those instances where the culture within an organisation may be exclusive rather than inclusive. And as leaders we have a responsibility to ensure that we create the environment and the fabric and the architecture that enables people to give of their best.”

Shaun said that it’s incumbent upon him to advocate for social mobility across government but that they have a really effective leader in Bernadette Kelly who is absolutely passionate about advancing social mobility and has a programme board which they all contribute to and that they all learn from each other.  He said that you can see the progress that’s being made across other government departments and that they do that by working and sharing their experiences. He added that “there is also, not just working across government, there’s a responsibility on us to work with other sectors. So, we’re working with the EY Foundation in Bradford and picking up on the point that Nicholas made in terms of intersectionality, there was the most diverse group of young people who were on this programme and we’re going to, and we have been, supporting them through their journey to make them and help them find a way in to employment.  We’re also working with Middlesex University and we’ve offered eight-week work placements.  And working with and learning from both the private, public and voluntary sectors, I believe we can establish a community of practice and we can advance social mobility, not just for the benefit of the Ministry of Justice, but for the benefit of society as a whole.”

Jenny said that without working collectively, none of us will be able to achieve the progress or the change that we’re all looking for.  Across the accountancy profession, they’ve developed an initiative called ‘Access Accountancy’, which Jenny said followed in the footsteps of PRIME, developed by the legal profession. Back in 2014, they set a series of commitments through to 2019 as to what they collectively wanted to do and with over 25 signatories, have committed to share data on the applicants and hires coming into their organisations and for the last two years have used the Bridge Group to look into that data more closely to understand the challenges they might all be facing but also the opportunities they’ve seen and then sharing that best practice.

Jenny said that they’ve developed a series of work experience programmes to support young people across their area and raise awareness in some of the social mobility cold spots.  They also work with organisations at KPMG that have clearly have the expertise, so looking at charities like the Social Mobility Foundation, they came up with an initiative called ‘One +1’. Jenny said: “we all know that work experience is one of those things that if you have the right connections you might be able to get in. But what if you don’t have those connections or you don’t know someone who is in a profession like the professional services like accountancy? So, One +1 is effectively saying, well if you’re going to take someone that’s a friend or a client contact, you should also give that opportunity to someone who doesn’t have that. So, we’ve been running that for two years now and have been rolling it out nationally.”

Across Access Accountancy and across things like the Living Wage Steering Council, Jenny said that there’s a whole series of organisations in different sectors. She thinks it’s important to learn what they can do across their challenges within their own sector but also hear from others because actually that’s where you get the innovation, the new ideas, and she added that a little bit of healthy competition doesn’t go too far either!

Nicholas agreed, and that to that healthy competition point, he said lawyers are amongst the most competitive of all breeds he suspects.  But the fact that they come together and collaborate is the thing that’s actually making the difference. He said: “Partly it’s the competition, you know somebody does this and you think that was really impressive, what can we do? But the collaboration is key, and I think the other thing about social mobility is that it encompasses all forms of diversity and inclusion. So social mobility is not blind to gender or ethnicity or sexual orientation because everybody from whatever background is potentially in any of those categories. So, we often find ourselves working with other organisations which maybe focus for example on BAME, and that’s a really really effective way of learning from each other and being really fully aware of the issues that are affecting different parts of our society. As we heard earlier, it’s an increasingly fractured society in many ways, so collaboration is one of the things that we can do to try and heal those fractures. And in the legal profession PRIME have initiated a conversation amongst a number of other organisations that are focused not just on the legal profession but who are very much committed to social mobility, but work with lots of other sectors, so that we can learn from that experience as well. People like Career Ready, SEO, Rare.  So, I think that’s really important.  And then to touch upon something that Jenny mentioned earlier in terms of what we can learn, you know she spoke about data collection as accountants. Well you won’t be surprised that being a bunch of lawyers, we kind of forgot about that when we started out on this journey! And you know, you need to have the data.  You can be doing all of these good things, but people need to know that it’s impactful and it’s making a difference and good stories, individual anecdotes, are helpful, but actually if you can work the data and show that it’s making a difference, fantastic we should carry on doing it.  And you’ll do it better actually if the data shows that they are great initiatives but actually it’s not really working, then you need that information in order to change. So, we’re definitely already talking to Jenny and the Bridge Group and Access Accountancy generally about what we can learn from their experience and that has to benefit us all.”

Jenny hopes that more companies will have people in a similar role to hers.  She thinks that we’ve been hearing quite a lot that businesses are really waking up to the opportunity that’s presented by all of this talent across the country. She said that she was Head of Social Mobility for several years at KPMG and is now Co-Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality, and so KPMG has acknowledged the natural evolution of social mobility as a core form of inclusion diversity and the intersectionality that Shaun had referenced earlier in the discussion. Jenny said “there is there is a huge relationship in a lot of these areas of diversity, so I know there are other Heads of Social Mobility around there, but whatever the title frankly, if the organisation is committed to this issue and they really want to make a difference, then you do need that concerted effort from leadership all the way bottom down as well to make sure that we’re all committed and making the change that’s needed.”

Shaun added that from the Ministry of Justice’s perspective, this started with (former Director-General) Matthew Coats in terms of him saying “look if we were really serious about this and used the action plan as a basis upon looking at a proper change programme”, that then provided the catalyst.  He said “I think you do have to have that leadership in place. It’s there. People do have a passion for it but they also see the real opportunities that it can be made to make organisations more effective if they are more inclusive, if you’ve got a more diverse workforce that’s helping to inform the decisions, that’s looking at problems from different angles and different perspectives and bringing that all to focus to try and identify what solutions are, then there is a real business imperative as to why this is important as well as the moral case that I believe that we do, as leaders within a civil society, have to create the environment that does enable people to give of their best and does recognise that we have to recruit based on potential rather than just polish.”

For more information on this topic visit Social Mobility Action Plan part of the Gov.uk website.


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