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Pledge of English lessons for refugees is just 'warm words'

THE government’s pledge to provide language lessons for refugees is just “warm words” after English as a second or foreign language (Esol) funding has been cut by more than half, a charity has said.

The government’s new Integrated Communities Strategy, published on Saturday, repeats commitments to improve the provisions of English lessons for refugees.

Refugee Action head of campaigners Paul Hook said they were encouraged by the plan, which recognises how essential English lessons are in helping refugees to integrate, find and excel at work, and navigate services they might need.

However he said the reality remained that the current provision of English classes “is at best patchy and at worst threadbare” and that “warm words” are not going to make that situation any better.

Mr Hook said: “The creation of an English Language Co-ordination Fund may help to ensure better management of provision in some areas, but — with real-terms cuts to Esol funding of 60 per cent in recent years — it remains to be seen if this response will be sufficient to address the need.

“In its Immigration White Paper the government committed itself to creating an ambitious and well-funded strategy to ensure that everyone in the UK, and especially refugees, can learn English.”

In order for this to work, the strategy must include a guaranteed minimum number of learning hours for refugees, equal access to lessons for all people, including those with childcare responsibilities and free English lessons for people seeking asylum, Mr Hook said.

The charity also called for an investment of £42 million per year to make all of this possible.

“We urge the government to deliver on its long-overdue commitment to let refugees learn,” Mr Hook added.

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