Language Matters for those making south Belfast their home
A more collective and strategic approach to provide English language services is needed to support migrants who make Belfast their home – that is the conclusion of a new study launched in Belfast City Hall.
The research was undertaken by Dr Donna Kernaghan from Stats & Stories, and was supported by Apex Housing Association (Apex), Clanmil Housing and Radius Housing, as well as the Cromac Initiative.
The ‘Language Matters’ project looked at the provision of English language services delivered by community groups in three areas of Inner South Belfast including the Market, Donegall Pass and Lower Ormeau, and explored the challenges faced by both community organisations and learners from an ethnic minority background. The study makes recommendations to help increase provision of English language services and access to them, including the development of an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Strategy for Northern Ireland.
With one of the most diverse populations in Northern Ireland, the project explored the role of community organisations in South Belfast in providing English classes for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Inner South Belfast Neighbourhood Partnership commissioned Stats & Stories to conduct a scoping exercise to establish the current levels of English language provision delivered by community groups and the challenges faced by both community organisations and learners. Researchers worked with community groups and service providers in the area, and undertook focus groups with programme participants to gain a fascinating insight into the lives of those non-English speakers who live here.
Challenges identified were lack of childcare provision, which limits the ability to attend classes; lack of funding for community-based English language courses, where community organisations must subsidise them from other funds; and shortage of collaboration between statutory agencies and community organisations.
Teresa McCloskey from Apex commented:
We are delighted to be involved in this piece of research which is the first step towards breaking down the barriers that exist to language learning and integration faced by the BME community in three areas of Belfast. We hope that the research will be used to instigate positive change in the areas.
Language Matters was supported by the Department for Communities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s ‘Housing for All’ Shared Housing Programme. The Programme has its origins in the NI Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society. Over £21 million has been invested in the Belfast shared housing developments and associated delivery of their five-year Good Relations Plans.