In November 2010 the Con-Dem coalition announced huge cutbacks in English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) services.
Under the changes, public funding for Esol classes from September 2011 will be limited to people from ‘settled communities’. To this day it remains unclear what ‘settled communities’ actually means.
But it seems clear that many, including asylum seekers, will lose out on the chance to take part in affordable language classes.
Remission of tuition fees will be limited to those on ‘active’ benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance. People on other benefits including working tax credit, housing benefit, income support, council tax benefit and pension credits could have to pay up to £1,200 a year.
Funding for Esol in the workplace will also be removed and course fees will increase.
The provision of Esol services has been a key part in providing people with the language skills they need to find work, access education, health and other services and settle in their local communities.
The devastating changes to funding will mean access to Esol will be far more difficult for the poorest sections of society.
It is worth remembering that at the same time as these cuts in Esol are being carried out there is an ongoing crusade from the government and the right wing media to cut back on providing information about public services in other languages in the name of savings and cutting ‘red tape’.
Capitalist politicians are conducting a continuous onslaught on immigrant communities, implying that the problems poor immigrants face, such as unemployment and low educational attainment, are of their own making and result from a ‘failure to integrate’ and learn English.
But the government’s plans to halve spending on English classes and to cut translation will massively exacerbate these problems.
These cuts, which are part of the overall austerity drive of the government, are being resisted with the lecturers’ union, UCU, leading a campaign of teachers and students called Action for Esol along with other groups.
On Sunday 19 June a day of action will take place across London protesting against these cuts. This can be the stepping stone to a broad trade union campaign to ensure Esol gets the necessary funding to protect language services and jobs in the teaching sector.