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Learning to Communicate in English

September 20, 2017 8:39 PM
By Suzanne Fletcher

Speaking at Federal Party Conference in Bournemouth on a motion to provide proper English tuition for migrants and asylum seekers who arrive in the UK, Suzanne Fletcher said:

I welcome and support both the motion and amendment, not for me, but on behalf of those who really want to be able to communicate in English.

Very often the first thing someone will ask for when I meet them isn't about their case or housing or food, it's "where can I get English?". This should be one of the first things provided, as soon as they get to the UK, certainly not after 6 months.

When those seeking asylum arrive at their accommodation a learning plan needs to be in place, taking into account their needs, such as existing ability, where they can get to, and childcare.

It isn't just about availability at local colleges; they can be quite a distance to walk to, and don't forget many asylum seekers have disabilities as a result of torture and the journey here.

It isn't just about being able to master speaking English, it is about understanding it, being able to communicate in all ways.

As a trustee of an organisation that provides interpretation, mainly for NHS appointments , I know how valuable it is for there to be professional, sensitive and confidential interpretation for what can sometimes be difficult appointment. That organisation provides that well. But only the other day I heard that those needing advice from a sexual health clinic find that difficult enough and can be embarrassed to ask for an interpreter, even though one could be made available. The consequences are obvious.

As an aside, the interpreting services in the UK are not regulated, have no proper framework and are unchecked. This is an issue always on the back burner with NHS reforms, but it needs to be tackled.

Our excellent Drop Ins in our community in Stockton and Middlesbrough provide superb support from the voluntary sector. Many volunteers help with English and of course that goes hand in hand with learning to live here. These organisations need the support to deliver the much needed services.

Understanding English saves falling foul of our written and unwritten rules in society, too. It is part of truly belonging to our community. When leave to remain is given it means they have a much better chance of not just gaining employment, but being able to fully utilise their skills.

It may not be radical, but this is a truly liberal proposal.

It enables those seeking sanctuary here and other migrants to be able to play a full part in society, doesn't dehumanise them, and allows them not to be reliant on the state.

It gives dignity, and so important, gives them power, to be a full human being.

You can see Suzanne delivering her speech at 4715 minutes into this video