Headlines: May 18th, 2009

The ability of immigrants to speak English is important for their full integration into the economy and society and local councils will play a major part in deciding who will qualify for free language lessons. Spending will now focus on long-term UK residents and away from short-term migrants to the UK because it is important that those with a long-term commitment to remain in the UK should be the ones to benefit from this investment.

The Commission on Integration and Cohesion report made clear that the ability to speak a common language is a key factor in securing understanding and integration between communities. Learning and using English not only helps people to become more employable, it also contributes to the nation’s economy. Learners can also support their families better, access necessary services and play a full part in society.

Because local authorities know their communities best they will be given a key role n ensuring that the people who will benefit most have access to this support. Together with the Learning and Skills Council and local colleges and training providers they will work with other community groups to identify the most vulnerable people in their neighbourhood who need to improve their English skills. Using their knowledge of local demographics, migration and employment patterns, local partners will identify people who are not currently accessing provision and consider how to overcome the barriers preventing them.

The new approach has been tested in Ealing, Peterborough, Manchester City and Salford. It will now be extended to twenty one pathfinder areas and rolled out nationwide in September.