Children’s secretary Ed Balls and health secretary Alan Johnson today launched a £12m plan to improve provision for children with speech, language and communication needs.
Bercow found communication services for children with impairments ranging from stammering to autism and cerebral palsy had been “hugely neglected”, with poor joint working and access to services and information, and a postcode lottery.
As recommended by Bercow, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and Department of Health will launch 20 pathfinders to develop good practice in speech, language and communication services for children. They will help develop a new commissioning guide for services.
The departments will also provide up to £1.5m in grants to the communication sector and the same sum for a research programme looking at speech, language and communication needs over the next three years.
In early 2009, the departments will also appoint a communication council and communication champion, as recommended by Bercow, to advise the government on communication services for children and support implementation of the action plan.
There will also be a follow-up review on progress in improving services which will begin in summer 2010.
Following today’s announcement, Bercow said the proposals were a “welcome tonic for 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 plan was also welcomed by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and charities Scope and the Communication Trust.
Concern around teachers
Anita Kerwin-Nye, director of the trust, said: “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 speech, language and communication needs.”