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United Kingdom: An average of 6 months for refugees to access language classes

Due to chronic underfunding, institutions providing language classes are struggling to meet demand. To confirm this assumption, the charity organisation Refugee Action has conducted a poll among 71 providers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Results show that refugees are waiting up to 3 years to start learning English. 

The majority of providers (63%) are concerned that there are not enough classes available to meet people’s needs. Almost two thirds (65%) – teaching more than 35,000 ESOL learners – said they have a waiting list. Nearly half (45%) of those said people are waiting for an average of six months or more to start lessons. One said it could take three years to be assigned to a course”. All agree that women face the biggest barriers to learning as with 77% of providers unable to provide childcare at all or enough to meet the needs of all those who want to learn.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, says: “Leaving refugees isolated and unable to start learning English is a huge barrier to integration". “A shared language prevents communities from becoming alienated and enables friendships and understanding to develop between people of different cultures. Improving access to English lessons is vital for a less divided Britain,” he adds.

Refugees say learning English is “everything”. Being able to speak the language of their new home country combats isolation and loneliness, and enables them to volunteer, work and make friends.

The research is published as part of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission’s spotlight month on refugees, running throughout October.

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