Reading Community Learning Centre

Reading Community Learning Centre

At a glance

Causes

  • Education

Other details

Organisation type: 
Educational body
Geographical remit: 
Local

Objectives

Based in Central Reading, RCLC has been operating as an independent charity since 2007, and as part of national charity, Workers’ Education Association, since the mid-1990s. We have over 20 years of experience in delivering services to support traditionally ‘hard-to-reach’ refugee and migrant women. Our mission is to empower and support refugee and migrant women by creating a space for learning, and advocating for equal treatment, equal rights, and a life free from violence and discrimination.

Many of the refugee and migrant women we support speak little or no English, and often have limited experience outside of the home; as a result, many are amongst the most isolated, deprived and vulnerable members of our community. We offer a programme of outreach activities, free training classes, workshops, 1:1 information, advice and guidance, a Crèche and social opportunities. Our services are designed to build confidence, increase skills and reduce social isolation. In 2022-23, our core learning and support programme supported 420 women from 36 different countries of origin. In addition, 874 women were supported with information, advice and guidance varying from benefit support, filling in forms, making telephone calls, translation support to accompanying them to access services at the Centre.

Post pandemic RCLC continues to experience an increase in demand due to increased waiting lists from when the Centre was closed during the pandemic, running smaller classes due to social distancing rules and an increase in the number of migrants and refugees. Many have experienced disproportionate challenges around mental and physical health, loss of finance, social isolation and domestic abuse- compounded by language barriers and racism.  There is now increasing evidence about the levels of hidden poverty in the migrant and refugee communities, especially amongst Muslim communities, who make up around 50% of our learners. Many of the women we work with cannot access employment, and live in, or at risk of, poverty as a result, especially in the current Cost of Living Crisis.

Activities

We have 10 key objectives which enable us to offer comprehensive and tailored support services:

  1. Providing a safe, women only space to learn non-accredited English conversation classes, reading and writing, sewing, IT, Health and Wellbeing, ESOL with Maths, seated yoga, ESOL skills for health and beauty  (with built in progression from pre-entry, beginners, improvers and then onto intermediate level classes)
  2. Promoting equal access to employment opportunities (with in house visits from Adviza for careers advice)
  3. Addressing barriers including Cultural, religious and/or social barriers (inviting guest speakers each term to talk about women' rights, health and domestic abuse. Offering 1:1 outreach support, a free creche on site and a safe women only classes during term time)
  4. Providing holistic, women-centred support
  5. Overcoming isolation and providing mental health support (through 1:1 outreach and in house qualified mental health outreach worker from Together Outreach)
  6. Breaking down barriers between people and promoting community cohesion (through social activities such as walking clubs, chai and chat sessions, Swallowfield Coffee morning visits, end of term celebratory events)
  7. Being inspired and led by our learners (through learner feedback forms, focus groups and 1:1 interviews)
  8. Promoting research and advocacy (research projects with with the University of Reading)
  9. Supporting the progression of ethnic minority women onto further education, volunteering or work
  10. Partnership working                                                                                                                                                      We believe we are well-placed to deliver these services and address the needs of refugee and migrant women because of our unique approach. We offer free women-only courses which not only helps to make our learners feel more comfortable, but also removes the barriers many women might face if groups were mixed due to various social and religious boundaries that exist in many cultures between men and women. No other local service offers pre-entry and entry level community education to women with little or no English, in a women-only setting. Other than a small registration fee when a woman signs up to be a learner with us, or as a creche user, all of our classes and activities are free of charge and we know that this helps to increase accessibility. Our women-centred approach also allows us to work with each woman to identify specific challenges and barriers to achieving their potential. Our staff and volunteers provide additional holistic support to around one third of our Learners each year. These issues include mental health and other health issues, housing, benefits, employment, relational problems such as domestic violence, the school system, or immigration.                                                                                                               We work with partners in a variety of ways, this includes through formal delivery partnerships, informal referral and outreach partnerships, working with schools and as part of local steering groups and forums. The Centre also has over 16 informal partnerships with other local organisations and BAME community groups, this ensures that we are fully connected and united in tackling issues amongst BAME refugee and migrant women and their communities. RCLC is also part of a formal 7-organisation contract with Reading Borough Council to tackle poverty, discrimination and disadvantage and promote wellbeing

Current opportunities

RCLC is looking for a passionate new female Chair of the Board of Trustees to be a part of something truly special as we transform the lives of...