I appreciate how important it is for people arriving in the UK to be able to learn to speak English. Access to education provides hope and empowerment to those who receive it. It is a vital tool in ending poverty, improving health outcomes, and tackling gender inequality by empowering girls.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, which I am a member of, published a report in April 2017 with evidence that a drastic reduction in ESOL funding has meant that many refugees have no provision in their local area. The report highlighted evidence that refugees are often placed in classes that do not match their level of proficiency. It also noted substantial barriers faced by women due to the timing of classes, as well as the lack of childcare facilities.
A review of opportunity and integration (the Casey Review) published in December 2016, raised concerns about the possible disadvantages caused by not being able to speak English. Its recommendations included a review of whether the current provision is being sufficiently coordinated, and further targeted English language provision.
At the last General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to replace Advanced Learner Loans and upfront course fees with direct funding, making FE courses free at the point of use, including English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses. I believe in the importance of being able to speak English, without which, isolation and subjugation are more likely. Adequate funding for English language lessons is vital to foster better integration and community cohesion.
I am afraid that I am not able to attend the English Language Teaching for Refugees Westminster Hall debate tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman due to my prior commitments but I can assure you I will continue to follow this problem closely and bear in mind the points you raise.