8 Dec 2006

Speechless: Government bans English classes for young people and families

12 December 2006

The Children's Society has recently learnt that The Learning and Skills Council (which funds the further education sector) is to end free further education and English language courses (ESOL) for asylum seekers who are over the age of 19. The change will take effect from April 2007.

These changes will impact on many children and young people under 19, with many children set to be used as interpreters for their parents and other young people who turn 18 forced off their courses before completion. And with 43% of asylum applications taking over six months to process, many young people will be left in limbo as they try to navigate UK immigration law and social services with no language support.

If parents are denied the chance to learn English, but their children are not, then the burden of translation and interpretation will fall on them. The Children's Society has seen how children take on adult roles and forced to engage in a number of inappropriate scenarios, because their English is better.

The charity has seen children interpreting their parents sensitive medical test results which relate to their parent's rape or torture, translating letters about problems with their own schooling, and translating letters issued under Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 which threaten to take them into care if the family doesn't return home voluntarily. This new measure will place an enormous burden on children, disempowering their parents even further.

The withdrawal of a chance to learn English is short sighted and ill considered, undermining the Government's investment in integration and tackling social exclusion. It leaves the most vulnerable group of people without the basic skills to survive in the UK, and makes them feel marginalised and excluded.

Notes to Editors:

Media enquires: Sam Shaw, The Children's Society Tel: 020 7841 4423