The Government has published details of a £140m Controlling Migration Fund available to local authorities over the next four years to 2019-20.
In response to calls from Refugee Action and others, the Government is clear in its guidance that the Fund can be used to improve access to English language lessons.
Local authorities in England will also be able to bid for funding for other schemes to improve integration and reduce pressure on local services.
Refugee Action welcomes this new funding opportunity. We hope that it will enable more refugees to access the English lessons they need and enable them to contribute fully to their new communities.
But more focused and substantial funding is needed to enable all refugees to integrate and contribute to the best of their abilities. The Fund alone will not plug the shortfall in funding of more than £40m a year* for English language lessons.
The charity is calling on the Government to close the funding gap and publish an English language strategy for England that sets targets for provision and enshrines refugees’ right to timely access to lessons.
Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action says:
“We’re pleased that this new fund highlights the importance of improving access to English language lessons for refugees.
“Refugees tell us they are determined to learn English, but continue to face huge barriers from a lack of local provision to long waiting lists.
“We hope local authorities will use this opportunity to bid for funding to increase availability in their areas.
“But there is still a long way to go. Funding for English language lessons has been cut by more than half since 2009.
“The Government must invest in ensuring all refugees have full and equal access to English lessons – learning our language is vital to enabling families to rebuild their lives and contribute to their new communities.”
Notes to editors:
*Research published earlier this year by Refugee Action, Let Refugees Learn, finds that funding English lessons for the first two years after refugees arrive in English would cost around £1,600 per person a year. This would require the Government to invest £47m a year. The report shows that the cost for lessons would reimbursed through taxes within the first 8 months of employment on the national average wage. In September, the Government announced extra funding of £2m a year for English lessons for Syrian refugees. The charity estimates the funding shortfall for English lessons for all refugees is now £42m a year.