Council exploring options to offer Afghan refugees English lessons when they arrive in district

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) has said it’s exploring options to offer free English courses for Afghan refugees as part of a resettlement scheme.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 9:39 am
Updated Thursday, 16th September 2021, 9:40 am
Members of the public take part in a rally in solidarity with refugees from Afghanistan at Belfast City Hall. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

The local authority provided a similar service since 2017 at Bridge Community Centre in Lisburn for Syrian refugees.

The initial programme ran from April 2017 to June 2018 and it was funded by the Council’s Direct Programme budget, delivered by volunteers and supported by free childcare places at the Atlas Centre.

However, members of the Leisure and Wellbeing Committee were recently shown a report showing the council had successfully applied for over £6,000 from the Department for Economy to continue the programme over the next financial year.

An additional application for a contribution towards childcare provision was also successful and will provide free places allowing women in particular to attend classes.

Speaking at the meeting, LCCC Mayor and Alliance councillor Stephen Martin asked whether provision was being made to expand the programme once vulnerable people fleeing Afghanistan arrive in the council area.

“It is highly commendable that this programme has been going on in the background all these years with the results it has,” said Cllr Martin.

“Is there capacity in the year to scale up if our community is involved in Operation Warm Welcome [scheme], which is the relocation of Afghan refugees as part of their recent exit from Afghanistan.”

The council’s Acting Head of Communities, Angela McCann, said that possibility had already been discussed and options were currently being explored.

She added: “We’re mindful of that in terms of that looming and absolutely we will do all we can to facilitate such lessons for people who come to the city [from Afghanistan].

“South Eastern Regional College is our delivery partner [in this programme] and that’s where the conversation will need to happen.

“We’ve had those conversations with the team and we’re mindful of what could be ahead and we will explore that further.”