Conservative MP John Bercow has labelled provision of specialist speech, language and communication services as “highly unsatisfactory” in the interim report from his government-commissioned review on the issue.
The report, based on a consultation with over 2,000 people and nearly 1,000 families, uncovered a “bewildering and infuriating” lack of co-ordination between local authorities and primary care trusts.
Bercow said it was vital that local commissioners gave a higher priority to communication services. He said: “Although there are some skilled professionals and very good facilities, the overall position is highly unsatisfactory. Access to information and services is often poor, services themselves are very mixed, continuity across the age range is lacking, effective joint working between the health and education services is rare and there is something of a postcode lottery across the country.”
Virginia Beardshaw, chief executive of children’s communication charity ICAN, said that the report had put the issue at the top of the agenda.
Disability charity Scope supported Bercow’s criticisms, but said that the problem extended beyond children and young people. Abigail Lock, parliamentary affairs manager, said: “The findings of the review will be of little comfort to anyone with a communication impairment over the age of 19. The government continues to ignore the needs of adults with speech, language and communication needs and the services supporting these adults – many of which have now reached crisis point.”
Health secretary Alan Johnson said that although the number of the speech and language therapists had increased over the last 10 years he recognised that more needed to be done.
Bercow’s final report will make firm recommendations to the government when it is published in July 2008.
BASW responds to John Bercow communications review
Ed Balls on barriers for disabled children’s parents
Communication aids funding uncertainties
Gordon Brown: Tory Bercow to lead speech and language review