Liberal Democrat Councillor Darryl Smalley has written to Government Ministers to seek assurances that vital ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) training will be available to refugees under the new resettlement schemes.
Funding for the ESOL classes has been halved nationally in recent years – from over £200 million in 2009 to a little more than £100 million today. The vital training supports wellbeing and integration, as well as boosts skills that refugees and new UK residents can offer to local communities.
Writing to the Home Secretary and Education Minister, Councillor Smalley asks for clarity and outlines his concerns with the changes to the residency eligibility rules for funding, that will now see EU nationals and other nationalities have to wait three years to be eligible for educational support.
Councillor Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure & Communities at City of York Council, commented:
“Like most local councils, we are working hard to understand how York can best support refugees from Afghanistan at this most critical time. Access to language training will be crucial in making sure that those resettling in York can access employment and education, support their wellbeing and mental health and make the best of their new life in the UK.
“We need urgent assurance that no refugees or their families coming into the UK through any scheme will have to wait for access to funded training at any point, regardless of their nationality status.
“Nationally, ESOL programmes are severely underfunded and despite the best efforts of amazing teachers and staff, cuts to this vital programme has seen our country lose out on a huge pool of skills. The steeps cuts and rule changes in funding means the Government is letting refugees and newly-arrived nationals down, denying people the chance to fulfil their potential. Restricting opportunities for people to develop skills in adulthood harms us all – investment in adult education pays for itself; socially, culturally and economically.”