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Report suggests not enough being done to help children with speech and language issues

Too many children and young people with speech, language and communication difficulties are still not getting the help they need, study warns

Too many children and young people with speech, language and communication difficulties are still not getting the help they need, study warns.

A new report argues that poor understanding and a lack of resources are leaving children and young people without the right support.


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In total, more than 1.4 million children and young people in the UK have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), with language issues one of the most common disorder of childhood, according to charity I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

The organisations' report looks at progress made in the ten years since the Bercow Review on support for children with SLCN was published, which warned that treatment and services for these young people was 'highly unsatisfactory'.

The new study concludes that, since 2008, there have been some positives, such as more evidence about SLCN, government funding for workforce development, and language and communication highlighted as an important part of the early years curriculum (up to age five). 

But it also claims that there have been steps that have had a negative impact, with austerity leading to service cuts as well as other issues; such as the loss of senior specialist speech and language therapy posts and concerns regarding the place of speaking and listening in the national curriculum.

'Not early enough' intervention

The study, which consulted 2,500 people in England, including parents, carers and those working in SLCN concludes that in many cases, children's needs are not being identified early enough, or they are not getting the right support, which can affect their future success.

'Language disorder alone is one of the most common disorders of childhood, affecting nearly 10% of children and young people everywhere throughout their lives,' the study says.

In areas of social disadvantage this number can rise to 50% of all children and young people, including those with delayed language as well as children with identified SLCN.

Of the more than 600 parents who took part in a survey for the report, more than half said they had had to wait more than six months for their child to get the help they needed.

The report sets out a series of recommendations, including a better understanding of speech, language and communication, with clear messages and information for parents and careers.

Essential for improvements

It also says that support for SCLN should be seen as essential for helping to improve social mobility, health, inequality and employment and for children with SLCN to get the right, early support wherever they live.

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists chief executive Kamini Gadhok said: 'Speech and language therapists are passionate about improving the lives of people with communication needs. Yet, continuing funding cuts hamper the support they can provide. The government needs to focus and prioritise children's language and commit to implementing the recommendations in our report.'

Public Health England director of nursing Viv Bennett said: 'Ensuring every child has the best start in life is a priority for us and improving early identification and help for children with speech, language and communication needs is a core part of this work.

'Working closely with the Department for Education over the next two years we will develop an assessment tool to support health visitors identify children that can benefit from help with their progress.'

Read the Bercow: 10 years on report


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