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Community Development: English Language

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 11 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the Government's policy is, with reference to its policies on community cohesion, on encouraging those who have settled in the UK in the last 30 years to learn English. (242579)

The Government believe that the ability to speak and write English is vital to integrating into British society and to improving equality of opportunity. Language skills help people get on in the workplace and make a contribution to their local community. Migrants who have a good level of English are employed at a higher level, are able to work safely and confidently in their jobs, find it easier to integrate into society; and are aware of the unwritten rules of behaviour. We are therefore promoting the learning of English through the immigration and citizenship process and the provision of English language classes.

Government have taken the following steps to encourage immigrants to learn English:

In December 2007, we published Guidance on Translation for local authorities. The guidance spreads existing good practice, which ensures that translation is only provided where it is necessary and acts as a stepping stone to speaking English.

The Home Office Green Paper on citizenship (published 20 February 2008) considers that it is right to allow ESOL further education courses at the ‘home rate’ in order that migrants can acquire key skills needed for good community cohesion.

Funding changes for ESOL provision were introduced last August to improve accessibility for the most vulnerable learners, with those who can afford to pay for English classes currently contributing up to 37.5 per cent.

In October 2007 DIUS launched a new suite of ESOL for work qualifications. The new qualifications are shorter and more work-focused than traditional ESOL qualifications, giving learners practical English skills in essential workplace matters, such as health and safety and customer service. These provide more flexibility and choice for employers, agencies and learners. Employers should share responsibility for supporting employees with ESOL needs.

The DIUS consultation on ESOL earlier this year set out an approach to ESOL funding centred on integration and community cohesion outcomes, and placing the assessment of need at a local level. DIUS are currently developing more detailed proposals for future ESOL funding on the basis of the consultation response.