The Integration Report, released on Thursday by the Integration All Party Parliamentary Group, was based on previous findings of the controversial Casey Review which highlighted worrying levels of segregation in British society.
Alongside its findings, the report includes twelve recommendations on how to improve integration in British society. The first recommendation emphasises integration though education at the community level – supporting the emancipation of women, providing them with better employment opportunities and creating space for socialising opportunities –and is based on precisely what JAN Trust has long recognised and has been working towards since 1989, with little government funding. The recommendations were in fact based on a visit Dame Louise Casey took to our centre in 2015; the conclusions she has come to were influenced by talking to us and meeting our beneficiaries and hearing about their experiences and needs.
The need for greater provision of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) lessons as a means of promoting integration and inclusion is particularly highlighted. That speaking the language of a country is a key part of being able to properly integrate, find employment and feel part of the society in which you are in is not a shocking concept, of course.
What is shocking, though, is that the UK budget for ESOL classes has been consistently cut in recent years. The government pledge in January last year to provide £22million for ESOL classes came just months after funding had actually been cut by £45 million. Overall ESOL funding has been slashed by almost 50% since 2009.
At JAN Trust our provision of ESOL classes to vulnerable and marginalised women is based on our understanding that many women face a combination of barriers, including lack of English, which can create a vicious cycle of low self-confidence, isolation and poor awareness of the options open to them, all of which not only prevent them from being able to integrate and contribute to society but also leave them open to harmful cultural practises such as FGM or domestic violence. We have worked tirelessly with women at the community level to challenge this vicious cycle and promote integration since our inception.
Over the past three decades, we have helped thousands of women to not only improve their English, but to regain their confidence and improve their job prospects, through skills classes. Women such as Sarla, originally from India, who said: “Before, I had no confidence to speak and write English but now I write and I’m using the computer as well. My daughter has bought me a small computer now.” Or Jurgita, originally from Lithuania, who took one of our tailoring courses and now says: “I would like to do something more with these new skills I have gained – maybe open my own business or get a job.”
Our classes not only enable women on a personal level to further their careers and gain skills. They also support social inclusion in a supportive atmosphere and sense of empowerment that can even help women to prevent domestic violence, forced marriage, FGM and radicalisation, all of which are among the government’s top priorities.
Our Web Guardians© course, pioneered in 2010, provides a further help for mothers, with education in using the internet, understanding online dangers, including radicalisation, and gives them the ability to protect their children. It is the only course of its kind in the UK.
Just some of the feedback we have received from our Web Guardian© programme is:
“I found this course excellent and it should be given to all mothers.”
“There’s no other programme like this.”
“You have really made me aware of the internet and its dangers.”
While long overdue, we hope the findings and recommendations from this report show that the government is finally ready to take steps that allow everyone to integrate and contribute to our society, and we hope that as a vital resource in this process, JAN Trust will be will be one of the recipients of the funding to enable us to continue our increasingly important work in local communities. We have decades of expertise in this area and, ultimately, make a real difference to the society that we all live in.
If you are interested in finding out more about the services we offer, visit http://jantrust.org/projects