UK: Boost for speech and language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Dec 18 16:22:11 UTC 2008

Boost for speech and language

Communication is an essential building block, ministers say Plans to
improve services for children with speech and language problems have
been welcomed by groups who represent young people, parents and
therapists. A £12m government action plan will see pilot initiatives
set up in 20 local areas in England, as well as grants given to the
communication sector. And a £1.5m research project will examine speech
and language needs.  The scheme follows a report that found services
for children with language problems was "highly unsatisfactory."  The
review, by Conservative MP John Bercow, was published in July.

Acting on Mr Bercow's recommendations, the government will also
appoint a "communication council" and "communication champion" in 2009
to oversee the delivery of the initiatives.


Launching the action plan, Children's Secretary Ed Balls thanked Mr
Bercow for highlighting the importance of speech, language and
communication. "Helping children to communicate effectively is an
essential building block to help them progress and achieve their full
potential," said Mr Balls. John Bercow was asked by ministers to carry
out his review  "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

Mr Bercow said the action plan was "welcome recognition" by the
government that communication must be given a much higher priority in
the development of children's services. He added: "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."
Virginia Beardshaw, chief executive of the children's communication
charity, I CAN, welcomed what she said was a "groundbreaking" plan.
"For too long communication skills have been discussed as 'soft
skills' - there is nothing 'soft' about the fact that children's life
chances depend on their ability to communicate," she said.

"Schools and local authorities alike are concerned about attainment,
anti-social behaviour children who are Neet (not in education,
employment or training), offending and social exclusion. "Problems
with speech, language and communication are at the core of many of
these issues."  Chief executive officer of the Royal College of Speech
and Language Therapists, Kamini Gadhok, welcomed the government's
"commitment to make a difference to the lives of children with speech,
language and communication needs". "I never thought I'd see this in my
lifetime," she added.
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