80,000 people across England could lose right to free English language classes

Worse affected would be 58,900 women
1st August 2011: From now, 80,000 people across England could find themselves lose the right to free English language classes.
The worse affected would be 58,900 women representing more than two-thirds of those affected.

As the new rules come into force, questions are being raised by the critics on the Prime Minister’s pledge to promote "integration" among migrant groups.

In a speech in the Parliament earlier this year, David Cameron had insisted upon immigrants to Britain learning English so could be more integrated into the country.

But the new changes make it clear that only people on active benefits, such as the jobseeker’s allowance or employment support allowance would be entitled to full funding for English for speakers of other languages courses.

Those on inactive benefits, such as income support and housing benefits, or even having low incomes would have to pay at least 50 per cent of the cost of their courses.

The Government is insisting the changes are intended to focus resources on employment seekers.

Chief executive of the Refugee Council Donna Covey said asking people to find money for learning the language was similar to telling them "they have to fly to the moon".

She said women were the most likely not to be on active benefits and were, therefore, the most likely to be affected by this policy. “The Government says everybody has the right to integrate, but it is impossible to integrate if one can’t speak English. To ignore the needs of the most vulnerable people in society makes a mockery of the Big Society rhetoric," she said.

Covey had earlier also asserted: “We are extremely disappointed that the government makes no specific recommendations about funding for refugees and asylum seekers to access English classes in its report.

“We are very concerned that many refugees will no longer be able to learn and gain qualifications in English language following cuts to ESOL provision.

`Refugees with childcare responsibilities, a disability that means they can’t work, or who are in low paid jobs will be faced with paying 50 per cent of ESOL course fees from 1st August 2011, and a majority will, therefore, miss out.

`This is a dangerous situation that will lead refugees to become more excluded, unable to use other skills they may have and relying increasingly on their children or community members to interpret for them. Expecting asylum seekers to cover half their course fees whilst denying them the right to work is completely unacceptable.

`If the government is serious about the Big Society and supporting some of the most excluded people to play a part then it must make sure every refugee who needs ESOL support can get it. The government cannot rely on the already decimated voluntary sector to pick up the pieces.’

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