Refugee Action responds to the Government’s Integrated Communities Strategy, calling for investment in formal, accredited English language courses.
Government funding for ESOL in England fell from £203m in 2010 to £90m in 2016 – a real terms cut of 60%.
Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, says:
“Warm words on the importance of English language classes don’t go far enough. The Government’s integration plans are all mouth and no trousers without new investment in accredited lessons.
“We’re deeply disappointed that the Government has so far ignored all the evidence showing that access to formal English courses is essential for integration.
“Funding for English courses has fallen by 60% since 2010. Community-based, voluntary support is crucial, but cannot make-up for this huge shortfall.
“Our research shows refugees are waiting up to three years to start English lessons, leaving people isolated and unable to work, volunteer and socialise with their neighbours.
“We’re calling on the Government to unlock the potential of refugees to boost our economy and bring communities together by investing in English.”
Notes to editors:
Polling by ICM, released today by the think-tank British Future, shows that nearly 70% of the public agree the Government should provide more support for teaching people to speak English.
Refugee Action polled of 71 providers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in summer 2017. There majority (63%) were concerned that they could not provide enough classes to meet people’s needs.
Almost two thirds (65%) of the providers – which teach more than 35,000 ESOL learners – said they have a waiting list. Nearly half (45%) of those said people are waiting for an average of six months or more to start lessons. One said it could take three years to be assigned to a course and another said the wait could be “indefinite”.
Women face the biggest barriers to learning, with 77% of providers unable to provide childcare at all or enough to meet the needs of all those who want to learn.
The vast majority (80%) of providers with waiting lists, said a lack of government funding was the reason behind long delays for learners.