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Mark Florman: Tackling poverty benefits the nation as well as the poor

Mark_flormanMark Florman is Chairman of the Centre for Social Justice.

Britain has reached a crossroad ­ and we must seize this moment to take the bold decisions for our future direction.

Dynamic new economies are springing up across the world and transforming the global landscape. Countries such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil have been growing at a rapid rate. In 2011 the UK annual GDP growth was 0.7% which sits in stark comparison to China¹s slowed growth of 9.3%. This says nothing of Mongolia which saw an annual GDP growth of 17.3% and in Qatar GDP was up by 18.8%. These countries have a hunger to succeed and are defining the new world.

There is a new global economic climate, one that it is a markedly different to when I started work thirty years ago. This landscape is relentlessly fast paced; thousands of new ideas are born each second and innovative new businesses can spring into action overnight. And unless we make an effort to change gear and forge national renewal then a greying Britain risks getting left behind.

This is no pie in the sky ideal, it is perfectly plausible that Britain will become an international leader once again, but only if we help everybody to realise their potential. We need to strive for individual and national success. The Government must empower each person, their families and communities to play a vital role in recasting Britain as fit for the 21st century. 

Today the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), of which I am Chairman, launches Breakthrough Britain II. It follows on from the original Breakthrough Britain study in 2007, which was hailed as a definitive research paper on social problems in modern Britain and Prime Minister David Cameron recently singled it out as ‘a major influence on this Government’. Critically, the study identified five drivers of poverty: family breakdown, educational failure, welfare dependency, addiction and severe personal debt.

The CSJ has pioneered a landmark reform of the welfare system, spearheaded the Government response to the national riots of August 2011 and its policies are at the heart of the Ministry for Justice¹s revolution in rehabilitation.

Over the next two years, through Breakthrough Britain II, the CSJ will take this a step further. We will develop a framework to fuel Britain¹s rejuvenation and ensure nobody gets left behind.

Because as long as we have a section of society that is broken away from the mainstream and millions remain trapped in Britain¹s most deprived communities, we will continue to fall short. For the sake of social justice and to ensure fairness for tax payers, we have to build an inclusive and cooperative nation. And it is in all our interests to do so.

For instance, creating jobs and moving more people off welfare and into work helps millions to contribute to the fruits of society. Being in work bolsters self-esteem and strengthens families. As well as increasing tax receipts to the Treasury it also cuts the welfare spend; one single 16 year to 18 year-old not in education, work or training costs the nation £56,000 which amounts to around £11bn annually.

Breakthrough Britain II will be a new forensic examination of the social fabric of the nation. During this project the CSJ team will work all over the UK, in some of the most disadvantaged communities, to discover first-hand what factors fuel poverty. Over a two year period, the CSJ will publish a series of papers to influence national and political debate.

The final piece will be unveiled 12 months prior to the 2015 general election to influence all three political parties’ manifestos and ensure social recovery is a priority.

There is a lot of work to be done to restore the public finances and set the country free to prosper. But we must ensure that a social recovery goes hand-in-hand with an economic one. It is only by tackling these deep rooted social issues that we will foster success and create a more affluent Britain for years to come.

But time is running out. If we let the moment pass and fail to seize the initiative today then we condemn our country to an appalling future. Let us work together to make sure that Britain is not left behind - we need to take each individual on our journey to international triumph.

Call for evidence: Anyone who feels they can contribute to the Breakthrough Britain II study is welcome to contact the CSJ at admin@centreforsocialjustice.org.uk

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