The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) today published its equality impact assessment on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), but included no specific mention of provision for refugees and asylum seekers. Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“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 today.
“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% of ESOL course fees from 1 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.”