IS living in West Somerset hampering young people's aspirations?

The district has been coming to terms with being named the worst in England for social mobility for the second year running, but development manager at the Minehead Eye youth centre Paul Matcham has a 'glass half full attitude'.

"The children and young people who come through here get decent grades, have the right conduct and a positive approach," Mr Matcham said.

“We talk to them about their aspirations and what practical things they can do to go about achieving what they want achieve, whether that is looking at transport options or opportunities that are available they might not know about."

Mr Matcham said the rural nature of West Somerset meant extra effort had to put in to either bring resources to West Somerset such as having inspiring visitors meet the youngsters, or put on trips further afield.

“I think because opportunities here are a bit limited, the young people are really appreciative when someone does take the time to come and meet them or we take them on trips," Mr Matcham said.

He did concede that opportunities are limited, but was pleased to see West Somerset College is moving in the right direction.

“It is unusual for an area to only really have one school, and when that school is in special measures as ours was until fairly recently, it is no wonder the kids look further afield," he said.

The Eye hosts a youth group with 60 youngsters a week, hosts events for various clubs, has a climbing wall, cafe and recording studio as well as the popular skate park.

Minehead's Mason Hawker, 19, has cerebral palsy. He has aspirations of becoming a writer but feels there are barriers that make it more difficult for youngsters here.

"It is a nice place to live but it is a bit barren, and from an aspirational point of view it is not the best place to grow up. You feel as though there are barriers, whether that is transport or the limited number of skilled jobs here," Mason said.

"If you want to follow many career paths you have to go to Taunton or Bridgwater or even further afield, and if like me, you don’t have a driving license it makes it extremely difficult."

Mason said he is planning to go to Gloucester or Worcester to study creative writing.

Emily Hunter, also 19, feels she will have to leave West Somerset if she wants to pursue her dream of becoming a screenwriter.

"I wouldn't even know where to start to look into getting practical experience in screenwriting here. To pursue my career of choice it is unlikely I would be able to stay in West Somerset. I know getting into screenwriting will be difficult so as a more realistic option I also like the idea of being a teacher," she said.

Emily, who is currently studying for a degree in history from the Open University, has two older sisters who now both work in London and now work in public relations.

Emily said the fact the studying via the Open University was cheaper was one of the factors in her decision.

West Somerset's standing as the worst place in England for social mobility means that youngsters who grow up poor here have less chance of going on to get a good education and job than anywhere else in the country.

Many would argue this does not tell the whole story though as West Somerset is regarded as one of the most beautiful places to live, with low crime rates and always scores highly for happiness.

West Somerset has been named as one of the government's Opportunity Area's which will see £6m of funding brought in to try and improve the issue. A plan is being discussed but the money must be spent by 2019.

However the topic of inequality has been in the national news with the entire board of the social mobility commission quitting in protest at the government's lack of progress toward a 'fairer Britain'.

Alan Milburn, the former Labour minister who heads the commission, said he had "little hope" the current Government was capable of making the changes necessary to deliver a more equal society.

He was joined in walking out by his three fellow commissioners, including the Conservative former cabinet minister Baroness Shephard.

In his resignation letter, Mr Milburn said the preoccupation with Brexit meant the Government "does not have the necessary bandwidth to ensure the rhetoric of healing social division is matched with the reality".

He said: "There is only so long you can that you can go on pushing water uphill.

"What is lacking here is meaningful political action to translate very good words into deeds. In the end what counts in politics is not what you talk about, it is what you do."

Education secretary Justine Greening said the government was undertaking a transformational series of policies to drive equality of opportunity.

"In my own area, we have set up opportunity areas working inside and outside schools in communities to improve education results. If you look at the school standards overall they are continuing to rise."

She added, however: "I think there is a real problem that we need to fix. Where you grow up affects your future far too much. This is a generational challenge."