Not being able to drive is a significant barrier to gaining employment (and general independence) in our local area, because the public transport network doesn’t often provide the routes people need. We have therefore long been asked by refugees for support in getting their driving licence, whether it’s with English for driving terminology, volunteers providing driving practice, or help with filling out applications and making bookings.
Kerry Foster, Pathways to Independence Manager, found that there is currently a large cohort among those we support who are at various stages of trying to get their driving licence, and that a major issue everyone is struggling with is lack of specialised English for taking the theory and practical tests. In response, Kerry has set up a weekly class which started last week and was very well attended. She is using DVLA resourced materials and will also be including information around vehicle maintenance, insurance, MOTs, tax and other aspects of driving in the UK that attendees have told us they struggle to understand.
As part of registering for the class, participants fill a questionnaire about their previous driving experience, English language ability and background so we can gain a better understanding of people’s needs for future classes, and so that we can track their progress as part of their overall pathways to independence. As well as being able to pursue employment opportunities, driving enables people to attend medical appointments, go to the supermarket, take their family on outings etc – all journeys that refugees who don’t have a UK driving licence or car are reliant on our volunteers for.
Classes are mixed gender (because, encouragingly, participants told us this would be acceptable) and aim to support cultural integration as part of wider learning on the terminology, rules and etiquette of UK roads. Attendees are from various countries and a diversity of backgrounds and cultures within each country, so these sessions will be really positive for cross-cultural solidarity as well as getting people ‘on the road’ to employment!
Kerry said, “It’s so fantastic that so many people have signed up for the class, and seeing that we are really meeting an unmet need. I’m looking forward to following people’s progress with getting their driving licence but also seeing how this impacts their overall route to independence and integration, and generally building a fulfilling life for themselves.“