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Taking action in higher education

UCU says joined up government is essential to translation services

7 December 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today called for joined-up government thinking on the issue of translation services. As communities secretary, Hazel Blears, published new guidance on translation for local councils 'placing greater emphasis on learning English', the union warned that government restrictions on English classes were the reason many people are still reliant on translation services.

Last October the government announced plans to limit free entitlement to English language classes for speakers of foreign languages (ESOL courses). UCU has warned that the unintended consequences of this move will exclude large groups that desperately want, and need, to study English from participating fully in our society.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Hazel Blears is not the first minister to call for less translation services and more people to learn English. However, she is wrong to suggest the availability of translation services is the biggest disincentive for people not to learn English. We know that the biggest disincentive is the now prohibitive cost of learning English for so many people.

'The restriction of free English courses has hit the very people the government wants to learn English the hardest and jeopardises community cohesion. The government, quite rightly, has cited community cohesion as a central plank of building a fairer and more equitable Britain. However, unless it reinstates free English classes then thousands of people will have to continue to rely on translation services because they cannot afford to learn English. It is of national importance that a full review into the impact of changes to the funding of English classes is undertaken immediately.'