The campaign to protect ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) has gathered pace over the past few weeks, with FE students and lecturers from across the country engaging in a nationwide day of action on the 24th of March. Since the government’s announcements in November stating that only those on “active benefits” would continue to receive subsidised ESOL provision, NUS' Vice President (Further Education) Shane Chowen has been battling to retain fair access to this much valued programme.
Sheera Melody, 18, who came to the UK in 2001 with her parents, says being able to learn English has made a huge difference to her life. "When we first came to England we had to take a family friend every time we went out," says Sheera. Now fluent in English she is appalled that many like her and her parents will not be able to access what she feels is an essential benefit for the migrant community.
The latest government skills strategy reveals that, in future, the only people eligible for full ESOL funding will be those on "active benefits" – jobseeker's allowance (JSA) or employment support allowance (ESA). Those on support described as "non-active benefits" such as income support or on low incomes, including spouses, will not be eligible, nor will asylum seekers, migrant workers and refugees. Even where there is other support, individuals must pay at least half the full cost of the course under a system of co-funding, in order to share the costs between government, employers and individuals. In some cases this means 60-70% of those who can currently access ESOL will become ineligible.
An Early Day Motion has been tabled and national drive to get MPs to sign up has begun.
So far 19 MPs from 4 different parties have signed. Write to your MP today to encourage them to sign it, and remember: MPs are more likely to sign EDMs if asked by their constituents.
If you would like to be more involved in the campaign please contact Eugene Ayisi, Policy & Development Advisor: Eugene.firstname.lastname@example.org