Health visitors flag up rise in children with language delay

New figures show that health visitors are increasingly seeing children with delayed language.

Findings from a survey of 1,251 health visitors, carried out by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) last year, reveal that 72 per cent reported seeing an increase in children with delayed speech and communication development. This is up from 64 per cent the year before – an eight-per-cent rise.

Children with delayed speech and communication development may use simpler sentences and fewer words thatn their peers and struggle to understand instructions.

The release of the findings follows confirmation from the Department of Health earlier this month that health visitor checks, including those to identify language difficulties in young children, will remain mandatory in the early years, after a review of the policy.

The iHV has submitted the findings to children’s communication charity I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), who are currently gathering evidence to inform a major new review into children’s speech and language.

Bercow: Ten Years On, will be published in early 2018, a decade after the Bercow Review into provision for children with language difficulties. It is being chaired by the former Government communication champion for children Jean Gross.

I CAN and the RCSLT are now looking to hear from parents and carers about their experience of support for children with SLCN as part of the next phase of evidence gathering.

Ms Gross said, ‘The Institute of Health Visiting’s evidence highlights a worrying trend in health visitors reporting a rise in children with delayed language. Now is the time to find out how parents and carers really feel about the reality of the SLCN support they have received for their child so we can understand what, if anything, has changed over the past decade. We are asking them to speak out so we can ensure that the Bercow: Ten Years On recommendations about information and provision are firmly rooted in their experience.

‘In 2008, the original Bercow Review showed that around two-thirds of parents and carers that responded felt that information about support for children was not easily available, and nearly 40 per cent said that the quality of information was poor. That was damning evidence that things needed to improve. But have they? That is what we need to find out.’

Elizabeth Stanley, national rep for the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF), said, ‘Ensuring that parents and families have a good understanding of how best to support their child’s development is vitally important in improving outcomes for children and young people. Being able to communicate is an essential part of life; we need parents, carers, professionals and organisations to listen to each other and work together in a collaborative way to improve the lives of our children.

Bercow: Ten Years On needs to learn from those families receiving good support for their child as well as those who feel it is not so good. This will ensure that recommendations can include ways to replicate best practice. It is therefore imperative that parents and carers use the survey as a platform to share their experiences and contribute to the evidence base.’

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