Home win for support group teaching English to asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds

Jon Beech.
Jon Beech.
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A funding award has opened up a new chapter for a group that provides one-to-one English lessons at home for asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds.

Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network (LASSN) helped 140 people last year who would have found it difficult to access mainstream classes because of family commitments or disabilities.

Now the scheme’s future has been guaranteed for a further five years thanks to a grant of more than £370,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.

The number of lessons will increase by 75 per cent while two new volunteer managers are also being recruited.

LASSN director Jon Beech said: “We’re really chuffed that the [Big Lottery Fund] sees the need for such a project in Leeds.

“Cuts to mainstream English classes make it harder than ever to get a place, especially if you’ve got kids or a disability, or the classes are two bus rides away.

“80 per cent of the people we teach are women with children. The ability to write and speak English gives people confidence and enables them to take control of their lives, and to give something back.

“Saying hello to your neighbour, helping your child to read, or being able to understand your post – it sounds like a little thing but it can be life-changing.

“An hour a week spent learning English with one of our trained volunteers helps people make a home, helps people settle, and helps people to integrate.”

He added: “For the last two months we’ve been turning volunteers away, because we don’t have the staff to train or support them.

“This funding is brilliant, because we can start saying yes again.”

According to recent figures, there are around 1720 asylum seekers currently living in Leeds.

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