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BPS launches new campaign to make social class a protected characteristic

The #Makeit10 campaign aims to make social class a protected characteristic to 'level up' and tackle discrimination.

20 July 2022

By BPS Communications

In a new report highlighting the psychological impact of class-based inequalities and discrimination, the BPS argues that to truly 'level up' and tackle the widening social mobility gap, social class should be protected under the Equalities Act.

This will give the same legal protections that come with other protected characteristics such as gender and ethnicity, and force institutions to measure, and implement policies to begin to tackle social class gaps and ceilings.

In a rapid review of the psychological evidence on social class, the report details the damaging impacts of class-based discrimination across education, work and health. Some key findings include:

  • The issue of 'Stereotype threat' in schools, where children worry that their behaviour will confirm others negative expectations about 'people like them' – inducing anxiety and interfering with learning, reducing performance, and increasing disengagement with education.
  • How an 18 month attainment gap between children from free school meal families and non-free school meal children by the time they reach GCSEs damages children's aspirations, self-belief and life chances.
  • Working class people experience judgement and blame when accessing medical treatment, leading to delays.
  • Lower social class is a clear causal factor in poor mental health due to chronic stress, educational barriers, precarious employment and insecure housing.
  • Salary inequalities leading to increased psychological distress and poorer self-rated health

Dr Bridgette Rickett, lead for the BPS' #Makeit10 campaign, said:

"In the UK, discrimination based on someone's social class or socioeconomic status is immune from direct challenge and for too long the damaging impacts of social class inequalities and discrimination have been ignored. The psychological evidence in our report is clear; class-based differentials in structural, economic, environmental and material conditions are hugely significant for health and wellbeing across all areas of people's lives.

We have focused on the areas of education, health and work as we believe these are areas where class based discrimination is rife, and areas where huge strides could be made if institutions were obliged to record data on class, analyse class-based disparities and implement policies and initiatives to tackle discrimination.

The government talks of 'levelling up', and realising opportunities for all social class groups in relation to education, health and wellbeing, and working lives. This is admirable and urgent, particularly in light of the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on widening inequalities. One step the government could take to make levelling up a reality is to make social class a protected characteristic under the Equality Act."

Read the full report, Psychology of social class-based inequalities - Policy implications for a revised (2010) UK Equality Act

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