Award-winning charity Action Foundation, which teaches English to non-English speaking residents, has opened a branch in Sunderland.
The charity, which has been working with refugees in the North East for eight years, has opened an office at The Place in Athenaeum Street, as well as classrooms for its English teaching programme.
Action Language offers classes designed to enable non-English speaking residents and refugees to learn English in order to live independently in the community, and to reach a standard to help them to obtain employment.
In the 2011 Census, 1,229 people living in Sunderland said they could not speak English well or at all. However, the actual number is likely to be much higher.
The city centre office space will be shared between Action Language and the Action Letting/Housing team, who are currently managing properties in Sunderland, providing supported accommodation to homeless refugees.
Action Language chief executive officer Julian Prior sees the expansion to Sunderland as a very positive move for the charity.
He said: “We have a very successful model of teaching English classes in Newcastle, where we have classes every day.
“We have had over 100 different nationalities attending our courses over the last few years, and over 800 people enrolled on courses during the last 12 months.
“The benefits of being able to communicate effectively in English are huge, as it is a major factor to unlocking people’s future ability to live independently.
“We are delighted to have secured office and classrooms in The Place, and look forward to seeing the classes develop in the same way as Newcastle, as well as an increase in our classes for professionals at these purpose-designed premises.
“We have already made a lot of useful contacts in the Sunderland area, and look forward to working in the city in partnership with other organisations to provide an important additional service to many people who have come to live in Sunderland.”
Alan Caddick, head of housing support and community living at Sunderland City Council, said: “We support their work with individuals and families to overcome exclusion and disadvantage, and see integration through language as an essential element of this.
“As a council we support Action Language and their expansion in the city, and see this as improving the lives of those where English is not the first language.”
For courses, visit www.actionlanguagepro.co.uk.