Spring is special because it evokes a feeling of renewal and expectation, and in that vein my Party held its Spring Forum last week; planning the year ahead, building upon recent achievements, learning lessons and reflecting upon our core values.
Equality of opportunity is an essential element of those values; the mantra that where you end up in life shouldn't depend upon where you are born, but upon the talents you have and how hard you're prepared to work. It is an approach I adopted as a little girl, coming from humble beginnings and, for a while, being the only person with a darker skin in the far northern City of Carlisle in the 60s. With the backing of a wonderfully strong, loving and encouraging Mum and Grandma, and because of equality of opportunity, I managed to become a lawyer, a Member of Parliament, a Government Minister and now a Vice Chairman of my Party.
I was therefore very pleased to hear the PM nurturing the Conservative values of aspiration and ambition in her speech at the Forum; because that is the essence of social mobility, and as politicians we must act to empower people to recognise their potential and then find the opportunities that are out there.
Whilst the opposition would have you believe there is a crisis in our education system, there are a good news stories to tell; Children from all backgrounds are doing better, with those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds improving the fastest; nearly 2 million more pupils are being educated in good or outstanding schools than eight years ago, and there are more people from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university than ever before.
In pursuit of the equality grail Theresa May last year published the Race Disparity Audit, which showed us the areas where we need to see more change. For example; young people from ethnic minorities between the ages of 16 and 24 are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as their white peers, despite having similar qualifications.
I was therefore heartened to hear the PM announce earlier this week a £90 million programme to help tackle inequalities in youth unemployment.
The programme will be shaped by the evidence from the Race Disparity Audit and young people will feed into the programme's design, working with educators, youth and community organisations and businesses to demonstrate how their skills and talents can be of mutual benefit.
As Vice-Chair for Communities I continue to work closely with community organisations, to help provide the Government with policy ideas and practical feedback, to help resolve some of these challenges. Indeed, I have been doing this since I became an MP back in 2010, but having a formal role and title opens many doors, eyes and ears much more easily and quickly.
I therefore invite readers of The Voice to contact me in writing and perhaps arrange to meet; my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am here to listen to any thoughts and ideas that may help your community find greater prosperity, and to help tackle the many challenges of Modern Britain today. Enjoy the onset of spring and I hope to hear from you.
A piece written by Helen Grant MP for the Voice newspaper
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