Non-English speakers ‘vulnerable to exploitation’
BIRMINGHAM residents who cannot speak English are left vulnerable to exploitation, it has been argued.
The city council estimates more than 47,000 citizens are unable to speak English well or at all.
While 40 per cent of school children in the city have a different first language.
Cllr Matt Bennett (Cons, Edgbaston) highlighted the issue at full council on Tuesday as the authority’s new community cohesion strategy was passed.
He said: “The fundamental point in this report is about language. I think speaking English, speaking the language of the country you live in opens up the world to you.
“It gives you rights and prevents you being exploited.
“We should really be that the right to speak opened up to everybody.
“People are vulnerable if they can’t speak the language, they are exploited in all sorts of ways.”
The strategy has been spearheaded by social inclusion chief Cllr Tristan Chatfield (Lab, Weoley and Selly Oak) and has been in the works for around 18 months.
It highlights the major ambitious English is facts that divide Brummies including deprivation, employment, gender inequality, ethnicity and education.
The report also sets out a broad approach on how the council can work with other organisations to break down the barriers.
It states: “The inability to communicate confidently in the English language is a significant barrier to achieving greater participation and engagement in communities.”
The council has vowed to increase provision of English as a Second Language (ESOL) training for nonEnglish speaking residents.
Cllr Gareth Moore (Cons, Erdington) welcomed the fact that houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have also been identified as a problem in the city, with the strategy calling for more action around rogue landlords.
Cllrs Ewan Mackey (Cons, Sutton Roughly) and Roger Harmer (Lib Dems, Acocks Green) have provided cross-party support for the document.
The latter emphasised that while it was important to lay out the challenges threatening cohesion in Birmingham, the report did not provide a ‘detailed action plan’ on how to tackle them.
He warned that as it stands ‘nothing would change’ and there was ‘much more work to do’.