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Keywords:

  • fairness;
  • poverty;
  • social mobility;
  • disadvantage;
  • progression

Reviewing two of the latest reports by social mobility tsar, Alan Milburn and ‘social justice’ champion, Iain Duncan Smith, the article examines the politics and policy of the Coalition's fairness strategy and the jostling for position that is going on behind the scenes. Whilst continuing to pay lip service to the goal of ending child poverty, the government is seeking to redefine the problem, away from a narrow focus on relative low income. Beneath the rhetoric, the article highlights the close similarities between the ‘new’ and ‘old’ approaches, finding that the evidence behind the government's claims is unconvincing. Far from offering a ‘step-change’ in provision, it concludes that in the new age of austerity the Coalition will struggle to make any positive progress on tackling poverty and improving the relative life chances of disadvantaged children.