Headlines: September 12th, 2007

There is to be a major review of services for children and young people with speech, language and communications needs. The review will be led by the Conservative MP John Bercow and its aim is to build on the improvements to speech and language therapy in the last decade. It will report next summer on how the best of current provision can be achieved in all parts of the country.

The review, which has been formally launched by Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls and Health Secretary Alan Johnson, will also advise the Government on how local services can work more closely together to ensure children get the support they need, when they need it. There are currently more than 89,000 school-aged children for whom speech and language difficulties are their main special educational need. Even more have lesser difficulties or are thought to be undiagnosed.

The brief for the review calls for its advice on a number of areas – the range and composition of universal and specialist services to meet diverse needs and to secure value for money within the context of the Comprehensive Spending Review; how planning and performance management and co-operation between government departments and local agents can promote early intervention and improve services and to identify good practice in commissioning and delivering services.

It has also been asked to look into several specific issues, including analysing good practice in joint working by education and health services, particularly in joint commissioning, how the health service commissioning framework ensures speech and language therapy services meet local needs and to examine accountability and responsibility for planning and service delivery from national to local level in health, social services and education.

Ed Balls said the review would give the Government a clearer understanding of where priorities and efforts should focus in the future and John Bercow added, “The review provides an excellent opportunity to make a real difference for the benefit of vulnerable children. I welcome the chance to work on a non-partisan basis to identify a constructive way forward.”