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 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
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.