Sarah Champion MP Calls for Additional ESOL Funding Following Race Audit

THE Government has faced pressure from Sarah Champion MP to increase funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses, following the release of the race disparities audit.

The audit revealed that in England around one in five Bangladeshi and Pakistani people did not speak English well or at all, and almost half of Bangladeshi women and a third of Pakistani women aged 65 and over could not speak English.

Last year the Casey Review into integration stated that: ‘lack of English skills presents a clear barrier to social and economic mobility – going for a job interview, writing a letter to a bank or understanding the country you live in’.

In Parliament, Sarah Champion MP asked First Secretary of State, Damian Green:

“The Communities and Local Government Secretary highlighted that some Pakistani and Bangladeshi women do not have English. May I suggest that one reason for that is that the Government have cut English for speakers of other languages funding by 60 per cent? Will the Minister commit to change that and reverse the cuts so that everybody can reach their potential”?

The First Secretary of State acknowledged that language is a significant factor holding people back but declined to commit to new funding for ESOL courses.

Parveen Qureshi MBE, Managing Director of the United Multicultural Centre in Rotherham, which provides ESOL courses and aims to give people the skills needed to integrate into society, said:

“In Rotherham, low / zero literacy level, lack of command in English and lack of jobs are high among the BME especially among the adult women. For them, community / voluntary organisations are the core avenues to start their learning, building confidence and acquire work experience by doing volunteering. As such ESOL courses play vital role to bring them out from their lonely comfort zone to interact, learn and engage with others.  However, funding cut and economic depression made severe impact on charity organisations’ survival and functions to serve the vulnerable community. This has vicious influence on BME community’s development and empowerment as there are no sufficient resources, support and guidance.”

Sarah Champion MP added:

“I’m pleased that Government has acknowledged the problem but, as usual, they have refused to commit to a solution. “Reversing their cuts to ESOL courses would be a significant step towards creating a more integrated society and allowing everyone to reach their economic potential.”

Matthew Trueman