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Petitions

Volume 528: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2011

Petitions

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Observations

Business, Innovation and Skills

ESOL Funding

The Petition of students at Loughborough College, Leicestershire,

Declares that the Petitioners are concerned about the Government's proposed new approach to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), particularly the funding changes to such courses proposed in the Government's Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth document.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consider with caution any changes to ESOL funding to ensure that they do not disproportionately affect marginalised and vulnerable people who are currently studying on ESOL courses.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Nicky Morgan, Official Report,10 May 2011; Vol. 527, c. 19P.]

[P000921]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:

Thank you for your Petition regarding English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) policy.

The Government fully appreciate the importance of English language skills in integrating into society and in finding and holding onto employment, and will continue to support ESOL through the skills system.

However, some very difficult decisions have had to be taken across Government. With only limited public funds we have had to prioritise Further Education funding on those seeking work, to help gain the skills that will improve their prospects of getting a job, and help grow the economy. Full Government funding will therefore be provided for ESOL to unemployed people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or in the Employment and Support Allowance (Work-Related Activity) Group, where English language skills have been identified as a barrier to entering employment. We will no longer fund ESOL courses delivered in the workplace as public funding should not be used to substitute employer investment in training. We will continue to pay 50% of ESOL course fees for people who are settled here, and we are giving FE colleges more flexibility and freedom to prioritise funding. As part of this they will be tasked to identify particularly vulnerable learners in their communities as part of their business planning and local engagement.

The Equality Impact Assessment published alongside Skills for Sustainable Growth (November 2010) found that, at the aggregate level, there are unlikely to be disproportionate impacts on protected groups. A separate assessment of how the changes to skills funding may affect ESOL learners is currently being carried out by my Department, and we expect to be able to publish the assessment before summer recess.

Funding for English for Speakers of other Languages Courses

The Petition of tutors and students of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) in Liverpool,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the proposed changes to the funding for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses in the Government’s “Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth” document; notes that the Petitioners believe that the proposed changes will have a devastating effect on ESOL provision, ESOL teachers’ jobs and ESOL students, particularly those on low wages; and further notes that the Petitioners believe that in Liverpool many students will be left with little hope of improving their language skills and job prospects as a result of the changes.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to cut funding for ESOL courses.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Luciana Berger, Official Report, 17 February 2011; Vol. 523, c. 1214.]

[P000889]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:

Thank you for your petition asking the Government to reconsider their English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) policy.

The Government fully appreciate the importance of English language skills in integrating into society and in finding and holding onto employment, and will continue to support ESOL through the skills system.

However, in order to address the financial crisis some very difficult decisions have had to be taken across Government. With only limited public funds we have had to prioritise further education funding on those seeking work, to help gain the skills that will improve their prospects of getting a job, and help grow the economy. Full Government funding will therefore be provided for ESOL to unemployed people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or in the Employment and Support Allowance (Work-Related Activity) Group, where English language skills have been identified as a barrier to entering employment. We will no longer fund ESOL courses delivered in the work place as public funding should not be used to substitute employer investment in training. We will continue to pay 50% of ESOL course fees for people who are settled here, and we are giving FE colleges more flexibility and freedom to prioritise funding. As part of this they will be tasked to identify particularly vulnerable learners in their communities as part of their business planning and local engagement

The Equality impact assessment published alongside “Skills for Sustainable Growth” (November 2010) found that, at the aggregate level, there are unlikely to be disproportionate impacts on protected groups. A separate assessment of how the changes to skills funding may affect ESOL learners is currently being carried out by my Department, and we expect to be able to publish the assessment before the summer recess.

Home Department

Student Visas

The Petition of residents of Sheffield,

Declares that international students are a great social, cultural and economic asset and a key contributor to British Higher Education; that international students bring billions of pounds to the British economy, help forge vital business contacts and are important ambassadors for British culture globally; that the Petitioners do not agree with labelling international students as “immigrants” as they reside in the UK temporarily, make significant contributions and are in no way a burden to the country; that the petitioners believe that the proposed measures in the Home Office consultation on student immigration would restrict the freedom of choice of international students and would significantly damage their university experience; and that international students should retain their rights to find work experience in the UK for up to two years, to work while studying, bring their dependants to the UK, to apply for visa for a new course within the UK, and to study a second course of the same qualification.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to accept the changes proposed in the Home Office consultation on the current student immigration system.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Paul Blomfield, Official Report, 24 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 8P.]

[P000910]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government agree with residents of Sheffield that genuine international students are a great social, cultural and economic asset and acknowledge that they make a significant economic contribution to the United Kingdom.

The Government believe that international students who want to come here should be able to speak English, to support themselves financially without taking paid employment, and to show that they are coming to the UK primarily for study, rather than to work or for their dependants to work. Students who wish to continue their studies in the UK will need to demonstrate that they are making progress, and we will limit the maximum period of time a student can spend studying in the UK. From the summer, only students at higher education institutions and publicly funded further education colleges will be able to work part-time during term-time, and full-time during vacations. The ability to bring dependants will be restricted to Government-sponsored students and those who are studying at postgraduate level at higher education institutions. From April 2012, only graduates who have an offer of a skilled graduate-level job from an employer licensed by the UK Border Agency will be allowed to stay in the UK to work.

The planned changes will be implemented in a phased manner which began on 21 April, and aim to protect the interests of our world-class universities, leading independent schools and publicly funded Further Education colleges. In addition to tightening the criteria education providers will have to meet in order to be able to continue to bring international students to the UK, the Government are introducing a number of measures that seek to ensure that only genuine students use tier 4, rather than those who are simply seeking to use the student route as a way in to the UK.

Over 31,000 responses were received to the Government’s consultation on proposals to reform the student immigration system, and these responses have helped shape the final policy which was announced on 22 March. These changes seek to tackle abuse of the student route, whilst also supporting the Government’s key objective of reducing net migration to sustainable levels.

Justice

Minimum Sentence for Murder

The Petition of supporters of Families Fighting For Justice and others in Wirral, Cheshire, Merseyside,

Declares that the Petitioners are concerned about the wording of section 170 of the Ministry of Justice Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders, regarding the Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, particularly the planned simplification to the minimum terms of life sentences which could result in changes to minimum sentencing.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Ministry of Justice to consider with severe caution any changes to Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to ensure that the length of minimum sentences for murder are not altered so as to reduce the term served.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Esther McVey, Official Report, 11 January 2011; Vol. 521, c. 260.]

[P000876]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Justice:

The Government express their deepest sympathy to all those who have lost loved ones through violent crime.

The Government have the following observations to make.

We have absolutely no intention whatsoever of reducing sentences for murder. We are not abolishing the mandatory life sentence for murder, nor are we sanctioning any reduction in the minimum terms imposed for murder. Schedule 21 does not set minimum terms for murder—that is the function of judges. It provides guidance to the courts on assessing the seriousness of cases. Any reform of the guidance will not prevent murderers continuing to receive lengthy minimum terms as part of their life sentence.

Work and Pensions

Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance

The Petition of members, volunteers and supporters of the Chippenham Gateway Club,

Declares that the Petitioners are opposed to the Government’s proposal to stop paying the Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance for disabled adults in residential care; and notes their concern that this proposal would have a devastating impact on the Chippenham Gateway Club and similar clubs for members with learning difficulties/mental health issues throughout the UK.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to stop paying the Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance for disabled adults in residential care.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Duncan Hames, Official Report, 9 February 2011; Vol. 523, c. 433.]

[P000884]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions:

We have listened and will continue to listen to what care home residents, their families and care home staff have said about how mobility support works in practice and it is clear that the current system is not working in the way it is supposed to. It is important that this uncertainty is addressed. We can guarantee this measure is not intended to remove severely disabled people’s ability to get out and about but to identify and remove any overlaps.

We want to ensure that the help available is properly targeted to reflect the different circumstances in which disabled people live. This is why we are considering the evidence to determine how best to implement any changes as part of wider DLA reform and implementation of the new Personal Independence Payment, not beforehand.

The Petition of care home residents and others concerned for their welfare,

Declares that the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) helps meet some of the extra costs disabled people can face getting around; further declares that the Government plan to stop paying DLA to people living in residential care, which will mean that many people no longer have the money to meet these extra costs and face being trapped at home.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons calls on the Government to keep the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for people living in residential care.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Fiona Mactaggart, Official Report, 16 February 2011; Vol. 523, c. 1096.]

[P000887]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions:

We have listened and will continue to listen to what care home residents, their families and care home staff have said about how mobility support works in practice and it is clear that the current system is not working in the way it is supposed to. It is important that this uncertainty is addressed. We can guarantee this measure is not intended to remove severely disabled people’s ability to get out and about but to identify and remove any overlaps.

We want to ensure that the help available is properly targeted to reflect the different circumstances in which disabled people live. This is why we are considering the evidence to determine how best to implement any changes as part of wider DLA reform and implementation of the new Personal Independence Payment, not beforehand.

The Petition of supporters of Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and others,

Declares that the Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) helps to meet the higher costs of accessible public transport (where available), or makes an individual eligible for an adapted vehicle through the Motability scheme; that without DLA mobility component, thousands of adults of all ages with severe disabilities who are supported by the state to live in residential care will be unable to retain voluntary employment or simply to visit family and friends; that many families with children attending residential schools will not be able to fund their own adapted vehicle, and as residential schools only provide transport for the start and end of term, with no extra provision for weekends or holidays, disabled children may end up stuck as prisoners in their own home during school holidays, unable to take part in leisure activities, or even attend essential hospital appointments; and that the decision to cut this vital benefit for children in residential schools and adults in residential care will deny thousands of disabled people the chance to live full and independent lives.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to cut the Disability Living Allowance Mobility Component for people living in residential care—including children attending residential schools.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr John Leech, Official Report, 8 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 877.]

[P000894]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions:

We have listened and will continue to listen to what care home residents, their families and care home staff have said about how mobility support works in practice and it is clear that the current system is not working in the way it is supposed to. It is important that this uncertainty is addressed. We can guarantee this measure is not intended to remove severely disabled people’s ability to get out and about but to identify and remove any overlaps.

We want to ensure that the help available is properly targeted to reflect the different circumstances in which disabled people live. This is why we are considering the evidence to determine how best to implement any changes as part of wider DLA reform and implementation of the new Personal Independence Payment, not beforehand.