Non-English speak­ers ‘vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ploita­tion’

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

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’.

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