We’ve recently celebrated National Literacy Day and we wanted to focus our first thought piece on this important part of our lives.
A solid level of literacy is such a basic and fundamental life skill that we often take it for granted and yet over 16.4% of adults in England, or 7.1 million people, can be described as having ‘very poor literacy skills in the UK. Adults with poor literacy skills can be locked out of the job market and, as a parent, they might struggle to be able to support their child’s learning.*
It’s safe to say that this statistics errs on the side of caution as having a poor level of literacy or, for that matter numeracy, is social stigmatising and isolating for those who haven’t had the opportunity to brush up their skills as an adult.
We have been managing the European Social Fund in York and North Yorkshire for over 10 years and partners have been funded to deliver innovative projects focusing on upskilling local people.
Kate Urwin runs Yorkshire Energy Doctor, a social enterprise helping people with their power bills. She is a current Community Grants partner and has been supporting Val. Early on she identified that she could do with support with basic literacy and we asked them both to tell us their story….
Kate: “Through ESF Community Grants we are delivering a programme called ‘Working with People’. Individuals who are interested in a future role working in the advice, care or service sectors can attend a 6-session course to develop skills and knowledge around communication and engaging with others. They then have an opportunity to shadow a community advice worker to get practical experience of working with and supporting others.”
Limited literacy skills can be an insurmountable barrier to employment – how do you search and apply for jobs if you can’t read or write? How do you find a possible job, put a CV together or fill out an application form? You could get help but imagine then attending an interview with the extra worry of knowing that if you are asked to write something down you won’t be able to do it.”
Val: “Before starting on this course the only thing I had managed to learn to read were knitting patterns and that was because I really wanted to be able to knit. Beyond that I couldn’t read big words, anything like that. I have never been able to go for a proper job as it bothered me so much, I could never write anything down and that always worried me, I couldn’t even write down my name and address.
I just felt that this was my time to learn, now I’m getting old! My husband wanted me to have a phone, I thought I was too old at 59, I was trying to text but spelling things wrong.
The support from my tutor has been brilliant, I was very nervous at first and I felt like people were listening and judging me but she was brilliant. She told me that she gets things wrong and people who are clever get things wrong and that really put me at ease.
I’m very proud of myself, I’m not completely there yet but I can now be pleased with something, I go into cafes now and can write my name and address which I could never do before. I want to keep going with it.
My family are very proud of me, they have helped me with my spelling mistakes and don’t tell me off now! I can now see when there is something wrong with words and am learning to put sentences together.
My mental health doctor has said that I’m doing much better now and they said it’s due to the reading. She has moved me back to my GP rather than being under the mental health team. I pick a book up now instead of things going round in my head. I have even set-up a reading corner in the garden.”
It’s clear that there is more action need to be taken to help folks access appropriate support and targeted positive action can really benefit people, the community and the local economy.
- What’s your experience of providing support in a community setting?
- Maybe you know someone in need of help – what would that look like?
- Is there a need for a partnership project to make these positive changes happen?
If you’ve got an idea for a project we might be able to fund this through our current ESF Community Grants programme. Get in touch with Hannah Prole: