Lib Dems call for young refugees to have equal access to education

Senior Lib Dems have backed a call from newly elected Lib Dem Councillor Anton Georgiou for young refugees to be given computer equipment and support to enable them to access education during the pandemic.

Lib Dems at all levels, from MPs to Councillors, to London mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita and London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, LDCRE Chair Roderick Lynch and Cllr Rabina Khan supported the initiative and signed Anton’s letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Upon investigating Cllr Georgiou found that while some vulnerable school pupils will be receiving free computer equipment to assist them with home learning, young refugee children and students learning English have so far been excluded from this much needed support.

Organisations like Young Roots, Refugee Support Network are concerned that these vulnerable young people will fall even further behind and not be able to keep up with their classmates.

In urging the Government to expand the support required, Anton highlights the excellent work being carried out by organisations like SocialBox.Biz, who are leading the way with initiatives like ‘Laptops for the Homeless and Vulnerable’.

Anton said:

Good education is a crucial stepping stone to allow young people to achieve their full potential. In the present crisis we must do everything possible to support young and vulnerable people to get access to the necessary equipment to enable them to continue with their education and contribute to our community.

Everyone deserves access to the tools to enable them to achieve their potential.

The text of the letter in full is below:

Secretary of State for Education
Rt. Hon Gavin Williamson MP
Department for Education
20 Great Smith Street
Westminster, SW1P 3BT
22nd May 2020
Dear Secretary of State,

RE: Computer Equipment for Young Refugees, Asylum Seeker Students and Vulnerable Groups

The current coronavirus crisis has exposed clear inequalities that we know have existed in our communities for many years. We see every day first-hand how this crisis is having a disastrous impact on the most vulnerable residents that we represent.

We welcome the initiative that has been taken by central Government to supply the most vulnerable students with computer equipment to facilitate home learning in the coming weeks. However, we would like to see this extended to other vulnerable groups too.

For example, we are concerned that young refugee and ESL students are being allowed to slip through the net. We are seeing in our communities, and also through anecdotal evidence provided by organisations like Young Roots and Refugee Support Network, that this group of young people are not being provided with the support they need at this time. Although their need for computer equipment is great and they have a social worker, they do not meet the specific criteria set by central Government.

There are also young people, refugees and asylum seekers aged 19 to 25 who are in further and higher education, but do not have access to computer equipment to enable them to engage in online learning, because they are currently not eligible. It is critical that those who need help get it. We need to ensure that students who already face acute challenges in performing at the same level as some of their peers do not fall further behind, thus widening the attainment gap in our schools, colleges and universities.

We are calling on the Government to make a concerted effort over the coming weeks to ensure that this much-needed computer equipment reaches these vulnerable groups who are currently not eligible.

We already have organisations like SocialBox.Biz leading the way with initiatives like ‘Laptops for the Homeless and Vulnerable’. Founded by Peter Paduh, who came to the UK as an unaccompanied child refugee from the Balkans, the company has been helping vulnerable people for many years and is currently reaching out to local authorities, government departments and universities to release old and no longer needed – but still usable – computers and laptops. Peter said that access to a laptop in his teens changed his life.

SocialBox.Biz was featured in the APPG report on Social Integration, released on 13th May, under good practice, which highlighted the organisations who are working to overcome the digital divide that the COVID-19 crisis has exposed.

We have heard heart-warming stories about people’s efforts to help those less fortunate than themselves. The BBC recently reported on a woman who is raising money to help refugee and asylum-seeking women to buy technology for their children during the lockdown to give them a better chance of succeeding at school. But it shouldn’t have to be like this.

Alongside providing more laptops as part of the current Government scheme, we would like to see central Government promoting this initiative amongst business leaders, universities and any other organisations with excess computer and laptop stock.

At this moment of national crisis, it is vital that the state does everything possible to support our vulnerable communities. Coronavirus has had an enormous impact on all of us, but if we do not act to limit the long-term effect that it could have on our most-in-need students and other vulnerable people, this period will be seen as the step towards a further widening of inequality in the UK.

We look forward to your response and details on how you plan to act on this issue.

With best regards,

Cllr Anton Georgiou – London Borough of Brent
Cllr Rabina Khan – London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Roderick Lynch – Chair of Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality

Sir Ed Davey MP – Acting Co-Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Layla Moran MP – Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Daisy Cooper MP – Liberal Democrat Justice and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Tim Farron MP – Liberal Democrat Works and Pensions, Communities and Local Government Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Christine Jardine MP – Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Sarah Olney MP – Liberal Democrat Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Transport and Industrial Trade Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Wera Hobhouse MP – Liberal Democrat Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Wendy Chamberlain MP – Liberal Democrat Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Jamie Stone MP – Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson in the House of Commons
Munira Wilson MP – Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care Spokesperson in the House of Commons

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM – Liberal Democrat Member of the London Assembly
Siobhan Benita – Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mayor of London 2021

Peter Taylor – Liberal Democrat Mayor of Watford

Lord Richard Newby – Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords
Baroness Sally Hamwee – Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson in the House of Lords
Lord Mike Storey – Liberal Democrat Education, Families and Young People Spokesperson in the House of Lords
Baroness Shas Sheehan – Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for International Development in the House of Lords
Lord John Alderdice – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
Baroness Lorely Burt – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
Baroness Lynne Featherstone – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
Lord Christopher Fox – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
Lord Jonny Oates – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords
Lord Tim Razzall – Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

Paul Lorber – Former Leader of the London Borough of Brent
Cllr Thomas Parker – Bracknell Forest Council
Cllr Luisa Porritt – London Borough of Camden
Cllr Flick Rea – London Borough of Camden
Cllr Tom Simon – London Borough of Camden
Cllr Mark Cory – Leader of Colchester Borough Council
Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison – London Borough of Haringey
Cllr Sakina Chenot – London Borough of Haringey
Cllr Nick da Costa – London Borough of Haringey
Cllr Liz Morris – London Borough of Haringey
Cllr Julia Ogiehor – London Borough of Haringey
Cllr Viv Ross – London Borough of Haringey
Cllr Hina Bokhari – London Borough of Merton
Cllr Anthony Fairclough – London Borough of Merton
Cllr Jenifer Gould – London Borough of Merton
Cllr Paul Kohler – London Borough of Merton
Cllr Simon McGrath – London Borough of Merton
Cllr Carl Quilliam – London Borough of Merton
Cllr Alex Warren – Preston City Council
Cllr Chris White – Leader of St Albans District Council
Cllr Humaira Ali – London Borough of Southwark
Cllr Victor Chamberlain – London Borough of Southwark
Cllr William Houngbo – London Borough of Southwark
Cllr Graham Neal – London Borough of Southwark
Cllr Ade Adeyemo – Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins – South Cambridgeshire District Council
Cllr Sarah Cheung-Johnson – South Cambridgeshire District Council
Cllr Bridget Smith – Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council
Cllr Dorinda Cooper – Tandridge District Council
Cllr Sara Bedford – Leader of Three Rivers Council
Cllr Julia Cambridge – London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Cllr Lotte Campanale – London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Cllr Avril Coelho – London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Cllr Thomas Mitchell – Rushmoor Borough Council
Cllr Tom Gordon – Wakefield Council

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6 Comments

  • Government support is available for the following “care leavers; children and young people aged 0 to 19 with a social worker; disadvantaged year 10 pupils”

    Anton Georgiou is quite right to say that everyone deserves access to the tools to enable them to achieve their potential. Possibly this could best be done by reopening schools as soon as possible. I’m not sure why “refugees” ( a very elastic word) should go to the front of the queue for help ahead of British-born children.

  • @ Gary J “I’m not sure why “refugees” ( a very elastic word) should go to the front of the queue for help ahead of British-born children.”

    Which bit of ‘equal access’ don’t you understand, Mr J. ?

  • James Belchamber 23rd May '20 - 7:48pm

    @Gary J do you want to re-read the article, then apologise for misrepresenting what Cllr Georgiou is asking for?

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people are willing to comment on an article, but not read the article. Especially on a website that is almost entirely made up of articles.

  • suzanne fletcher 24th May '20 - 11:09am

    Excellent initiative, but it does miss out Two very important things.
    1. Asylum seeker and their families doing home schooling
    2. The need for Wifi to be able to access such for both the group Anton is writing about, and the asylum families. Such access is expensive on data for those trying to do such from home, and places such as libraries and community centres where free wifi is usually available are shut. People should not have to choose between phone data and food.
    Layla’s office was looking into this, and I am hoping that a similar response on this issue will be made.
    the need for wifi is for all low income families of course.

  • Andrew Sosin 24th May '20 - 1:40pm

    Very important initiative. that I support

  • “Good education is a crucial stepping stone to allow young people to achieve their full potential.” Has Layla Moran said where she has got her evidence that re-opening schools is dangerous (or would cause greater harm than benefit)? Do we know if she has spoken to (her local) professor Sunetra Gupta or to the people at the Evidence-Based medicine unit in Oxford? In short, is Lib Dem policy based on evidence from independent academics and scientists (such as those who believe, ahem, in publishing their research in peer-reviewed journals), or are we just following the herd…

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