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PCC supports refugees and helps to build stronger communities

In support of national Refugee week, Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall visits Carlisle Refugee Action Group (CRAG) to see how the Covid Recovery fund has helped to support them to overcome potential language barriers when learning to drive.

Peter McCall comments: “One of the many important things that the last 15 months has shown everyone, is that by working together, we can achieve so much more.

“No matter what our faith, gender, ethnicity or culture is, supporting people less fortunate than ourselves, helps to create stronger communities and therefore safer communities.

“It is important to raise awareness, to encourage and try and understand the day to day barriers that refugees in the county experience.

“Personal freedom and choice are things that everyone living in Cumbria should have access to and schemes such as this, open up the door to a huge variety of employment opportunities and the ability to support one another.

“Overcoming language barriers and learning to drive can be a real confidence boost for anyone, and even more so for refugees, as it provides reassurance and enables them to have a more active role within the surrounding communities where they live.”

Adrienne Gill from Carlisle One World Centre and coordinator of Carlisle Refugee Action Group (CRAG) comments: “We are very grateful to the PCC Covid Recovery fund for this support to boost refugees’ driving skills through the Minutes for Miles project, particularly during lockdown and the associated restrictions which served to increase isolation levels in their community.

“This is a fantastic project and we’re delighted to have a great team of skilled and dedicated volunteers on board to deliver it.

George Cairns, Chair of Carlisle and West Cumbria Advanced Motorists, lead project volunteer comments: “The Minutes for Miles programme offers the refugees a gateway to employment and social mobility that would otherwise be denied.

“We have seen through this programme that it provides the refugees with tremendous confidence in themselves, and their ability to overcome many hurdles with the English language. Teaching them is humbling.”

Abigail Mann CRAG volunteer and founder of the Minutes for Miles project comments: “The programme supports refugees living in the county to integrate into the Cumbrian community by helping them get a UK driving license.

“Despite the effects of COVID, our resilient refugee learners have been studying online, throughout the lockdowns, in regular one-to-one sessions with volunteer tutors who are members of the Carlisle and West Cumbria Advanced Motorists, to study for their driving Theory Test.

“This is a massive feat for the refugees to do in a foreign language.  As a result, their English is improving, they forge new friendships with their tutors, and we watch them flourish as their confidence grows.

“It is a privilege to work with this resilient community who have a drive to integrate in the Cumbrian community and they are indebted to the people of Cumbria who have not only given them a home but hope for a future.”

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