Business leaders call for more funding for refugees to learn English

Business and union leaders, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and chef Yotam Ottolenghi, back Refugee Action’s calls for increased funding for refugees to learn English in an editor’s letter published in The Times on 25 April 2017. 

We’re proud that Britain has a long tradition of protecting those fleeing conflict, terror and persecution. However, in the middle of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, we believe our Government should be taking a leading role in the response and stepping up its commitment to refugees.

As business leaders and union leaders, we know the skills and experiences of refugees enrich our culture and boost our economy. Many refugees who arrive in the UK already have qualifications; including doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, teachers, designers and managers who want the chance to share their skills.

So it is vital that those given sanctuary in this country have the right support to rebuild their lives successfully – to work, volunteer and contribute to their new communities. As a growing body of evidence shows, including this week’s report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on refugees, speaking English is key to effective integration.

But right now, all around the country, the talents of refugees are being wasted. Funding for English language lessons has been reduced by more than half since 2009. New research by Refugee Action finds that refugees are being forced to wait more than two years to start the English language lessons that are crucial to finding work and fulfilling their aspirations.

This makes no sense. It is absurd for refugees to languish on waiting lists, stretching to more than 1,000 people, when they are determined to learn English and when they could be benefiting Britain’s businesses.

Research shows multi-lingual workers are creative, better at multi-tasking and faster at learning new things. To ensure our economy thrives, and meets the challenges and opportunities of post-Brexit Britain, we call on the Government to commit funding to full and equal access to English lessons for all refugees. This isn’t a handout; it’s an investment in our shared future.

Bella Freud, Fashion Designer
Bindi Karia, Innovation Expert + Advisor
Dame Stephanie Shirley, IT Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Ed Gillespie, Co-founder, Futerra
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC
Jane Shepherdson CBE, Fashion Entrepreneur
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO, Virgin Money
Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia
Mike Butcher, Chairman, Techfugees.com
Pinky Lilani CBE DL, CEO, Spice Magic
Richard Rogers, Partner, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Ruth Rogers, Chef/Owner, River Café
Yotam Ottolenghi, Chef and Restaurant Owner

Find out more about our Let Refugees Learn campaign and how you can get involved here