English Language Skills: Employability

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

What steps the Government are taking to support women with limited English language skills to improve their employability.

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Minister of State (Education)

The Government Equalities Office is considering how best to deliver new funded programmes for people who face barriers to getting into work for the first time. We are also working with the Learning and Work Institute to develop best practice guidance on building effective local networks and partnerships.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

During the Afghanistan war, many local people put their lives at risk by using their language skills to help our military, and some of those families were evacuated to Chelmsford. The English for Women project helped some of those women, and it now supports women of more than 30 nationalities to become involved in their communities, and to improve their employability. Will my right hon. Friend thank all those volunteers at the English for Women project in Chelmsford, and suggest ways to help them to network with likeminded organisations across the country?

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Minister of State (Education)

I certainly join my hon. Friend in thanking all volunteers at English for Women, which is a remarkable project. Such Government-funded programmes have supported more than 73,000 isolated adults—most of whom are women—to improve their English language skills, and, as my hon. Friend says, such support is about building confidence, people’s ability to get into good jobs, and integration in local communities.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

A merry Christmas to you, Mr Speaker, all the staff, and the police and security services who keep us safe.

Newcastle benefits from many volunteers and charitable organisations such as the Angelou Centre, the West End Women and Girls centre, and the West End Refugee Service, which support women to learn English and improve their employability. There is, however, a lack of central Government funding for adult and lifelong education. Will the Minister speak to the Education Secretary about the importance of investment in adult education, particularly for isolated and vulnerable women, and will she meet me and the all-party group for adult education, which I chair, to discuss how we can make progress in that vital area?

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Minister of State (Education)

I am very happy to meet the hon. Lady at any time because, as she rightly says, this is a vital area. We are spending £1.5 billion on adult education, some of which has been devolved to combined authorities and also delegated to London. It will be interesting to see how those different areas best use that money in education—in a way, they are like pilot schemes. I have also seen extremely innovative projects that work with women with children, and help them to help their children with school tests and such things, as a way of improving their own English. Those are often women who would not otherwise have come forward.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

What are the Government doing to support women in their communities who are isolated as a result of poor English language skills?

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Minister of State (Education)

I have commented on the English language courses we are running, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also has a big programme. Integration is uppermost in our minds at the moment, and the first step towards integrating people and helping them to gain confidence is for them to have good English language skills.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I offer best wishes for a merry Christmas to you, Mr Speaker, and to everyone in the House, from me as the Member of Parliament for Strangford, and from all my Strangford constituents who are very much involved in these issues.

Will the Minister outline whether funding is available for already trained teachers to be trained in either TESOL, the teaching of English to speakers of other languages, or CELTA, the certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages, to teach English within communities and community centres?

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Minister of State (Education)

I will have to get back to the hon. Gentleman to ensure that I give him a precise answer. We are undertaking a trial this year and fully funding adults who earn less than the pay threshold of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission—just under £16,000. Encouraging women to get on English language courses and improve their skills is an important area to focus on. We are talking about women who are just in employment and on very low wages and who, of course, face significant difficulties if they lose their jobs—their progress will be limited by that.