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MPs question timing of report on Esol cuts

An official evaluation of the effect of restricting free English language classes for immigrants could be delayed until just weeks before it is due to be implemented, the FE minister revealed in a House of Commons debate this week.

Questioned by MPs in the debate on Tuesday, John Hayes gave a summer deadline for publication of the impact assessment on the decision to end free classes for people on benefits unless they were actively seeking work.

He said: "I will ensure that it is published in good time - certainly before the summer recess - so that we have a chance to consider it in detail, informed by debates such as this one.

"The assessment will, of course, consider issues such as family learning and the effect of the changes on children, mothers and women."

But with the summer recess beginning in July, opponents claimed they already had little time for a substantial revision of the policy, due to come into force in August, if the assessment found that it caused disproportionate hardship for some groups. At the same time, the per- student rate of public funding for English for speakers of other languages (Esol) has been cut by 50 per cent over two years.

Shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden said: "I am afraid that, as with so many other policies, the department seems to have rushed in and then stopped to ask the questions later. It is very much like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: sentence first, trial later.

"I urge the minister to listen to everything that has been said today and to make that assessment a real basis for real change."

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