A report reviewing integration of ethnic minority communities in the U.K., authored by Dame Louise Casey, was published this week. The report concluded that local communities were becoming divided and minority communities were increasingly segregated from wider social life.
This report identified the vital need for greater ESOL provision for minority communities, a recommendation which The JAN Trust has been at the forefront of advocating for.
The pledge to improve English language provision by appropriately prioritising the adult skills budget is a proposal which we at JAN Trust welcome. We have seen the positive effects of investing in language provision at first hand as a result of our free ESOL classes for marginalised women in the local area.
JAN Trust formed in 1989, providing a range of classes for minority ethnic women and addressing the issues affecting them by creating a safe environment where service users can voice their concerns freely and openly. From its inception, JAN Trust has recognised that lack of language skills can lead to low self-confidence and isolation, and we have worked tirelessly to challenge this vicious cycle. This has resulted in scores of success stories. We have seen women evolve from isolated individuals with no confidence, to empowered women armed with qualifications, moving on to successful careers or further study. A small investment in classes for the community can reap considerable rewards.
As one JAN Trust user commented:
“A big thank you to JAN Trust who has helped me gain new skills and confidence. They supported me in opening my own fashion business which is proving to be successful. JAN Trust has inspired me to continue with my business and support my family out of poverty.”
ESOL provision and skills classes run in the community do not merely work to support women’s social and professional development, they also facilitate women’s access to support in cases of domestic violence and other forms of abuse, such as forced marriage. Casey highlighted the fact that a lack of English language skills was “hampering understanding of rights and services available and the ability of service users to respond,” as well as a widespread sense of social isolation acting to prevent women suffering from abuse from seeking help. The report identified that in the case of a reliance on a husband’s English language skills, it is made almost impossible for women to escape abusive situations. The JAN Trust recognises these issues, and the fact that in these situations, the classes that we run are not merely empowering for the women; they can make the difference between life and death. We have evolved as an organisation to address the issues which affect our service users through campaigning work, but also work at the grassroots to create an environment where cases of abuse can be raised and addressed.
The issue of Islamophobia is similarly an issue highlighted by Casey as one of serious concern which is disproportionately targeted at women. JAN Trust raises awareness of this issue both locally and nationally. We encourage our service users to report instances of hate crime and racist abuse and support them through this process. The potential for community groups to create a supportive, secure environment for these issues to be adequately addressed, as well as providing the language skills necessary for engagement with police and other services, is critical in tackling Islamophobia. JAN Trust is proud to set an example as a leading community group which takes its wider responsibilities seriously.
In the report, Casey rightfully decries the efforts of far right and Islamic extremists to attempt to show Islam and modern Britain as incompatible as ‘wrong.’ But it’s also up to British society to make a concerted effort to demonstrate this – by investing in the skills and services which will enable minority ethnic communities to become involved in wider society and address the challenges they face. JAN Trust takes its responsibility to do precisely this very seriously. We hope that our organisation will be one of the recipients of the increase to ESOL funding, enabling us to reach out and support even more women in the communities we serve – preventing the segregation the report highlights as such a damaging force in modern British society.