More Help To Get Young People Talking
A 12 million pound action plan to improve services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs was launched today by Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Children's Secretary Ed Balls.
The plan is the Government's response to the Bercow review, published in July 2008, and outlines a range of cross-government initiatives building up to the National Year of Speech, Language and Communication in 2011-12.
up to 20 local area pathfinders to develop good practice guidance and a commissioning guide on speech, language and communication needs;
up to 1.5m pound of grants to the communication sector; and
up to 1.5m pound for a research programme looking at speech, language and communication needs over the next three years.
A Communication Council and Communication Champion will be appointed in early 2009 to support the delivery of these initiatives over the next three years. The Communication Council will advise the Government on how best to develop effective services for children with speech, language and communication needs.
The Communication Champion will raise awareness of speech, language and communication issues, coordinate initiatives and organise the National Year of Speech, Language and Communication.
A follow-up review of progress in improving services to begin in summer 2010 was also announced today.
Ed Balls said: "Helping children to communicate effectively is an essential building block to help them progress and achieve their full potential.
"I am grateful to John Bercow MP for his work. He did an excellent job of highlighting the importance of speech, language and communication. Today's Action Plan demonstrates our commitment to respond positively to his recommendations and improve services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs."
Alan Johnson said: "I am determined to make sure that all children get the help they need to communicate effectively, to help them reach their full potential. Over the last 10 years, we have increased the number of therapists and improved access to professional programmes to help children overcome early speech problems. This action plan sets out how we can do more.
"Ability to communicate effectively is essential to child's education, health and wellbeing. I look forward to working with the Communication Council over the coming months to make this action plan a reality."
John Bercow said: "For far too long, speech, language and communication have been elbowed aside by policy makers in favour of other aspects of the child development agenda. Today's Action Plan is a welcome recognition by Government that communication must be given a much higher priority, nationally and locally, in the development of children's services.
"The appointment of a Communication Champion, the increased focus on early intervention and the roll out of speech and language pilots will be a welcome tonic to parents, professionals and the voluntary sector who have fought a long battle to ensure that children and young people can acquire the communication skills that they need to fulfil their potential.
"The challenge now is for all the agencies to pull together to translate the aspirations of the Action Plan into a success story across the country."
Kamini Gadhok, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), said: "We are delighted Government has taken seriously the recommendations produced by the Bercow Review and is taking steps to tackle the major gaps in children's services.
"The Speech, Language and Communication Needs Action Plan shows an understanding of the need to tackle this problem systemically involving the children themselves, their families and the public and third sectors.
"It also recognises the crucial role of speech and language therapists as the specialist professionals in this field."
Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director of The Communication Trust, said: "The Communication Trust welcomes the Speech, Language and Communication Needs Action Plan, which addresses the workforce recommendations of the Bercow Report so comprehensively.
"Our mission is to build the knowledge of the entire children's workforce, ensuring that each and every person who works with children can understand, recognise and help develop children's communication. We welcome a continued focus on the schools workforce however this isn't simply an issue for schools. The wider workforce- from play workers to those working in pupil referral units- need to be able to support children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
"We are delighted that this plan builds on the Children and Young People's Workforce Strategy, which encourages a focus on the workforce outside of school.
"As the third sector representative on the Communication Council, the Trust looks forward to engaging the widest possible sector expertise and to working with expert bodies, such as the RCSLT, Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) and the Children's Workforce Network (CWN), to help transform policy into practice for children with SLCN.
"Our major concern remains around ensuring that we develop and maintain a pool of teachers with specialist skills that can support all children, but most particularly those with the most severe and complex SLCN."
Work to help children with speech language and communication needs is supported by a range of mainstream initiatives including the ?40m Every Child a Talker Programme.