Children's speech and communication needs supported with 12m action plan

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A 12m action plan to improve children's speech, language and communication was unveiled by the Government today (17 December).

It sets out a range of measures, including the appointment early in the New Year of a 'communication champion' to raise awareness of speech, language and communication issues, and a Communication Council to support the plan.
There will also be a National Year of Speech, Language and Communication in 2011-2012.
The plan is the Government's response to the review into services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) by MP John Bercow, which was published in July (News, 10 July).
The Government has accepted the Bercow report's 40 key recommendations, and the action plan sets out a timescale for each of these.
Many of the strategies will be integrated within mainstream early years, education and health services.
The aim is to provide prevention, early identification and intervention services to support children and their parents.
In early years, services will be developed through the £40m Every Child A Talker programme to raise early years practitioners' awareness of the importance of speech and language (News, 17 July). The programme will help nurseries and childminders to access training and materials to support pre-school children's speaking and listening skills.
The Child Health Promotion programme will aim to ensure all children's speech and language skills are reviewed between the ages of two and two-and-a-half to spot any problems.
Other measures include pathfinder projects in up to 20 local areas to develop good practice guidance.
I CAN, the children's communication charity, which launched its Make Chatter Matter campaign in 2006, described the action plan as 'groundbreaking'.
I CAN chief executive Virginia Beardshaw said, 'For too long, communication skills have been described as "soft skills". There is nothing "soft" about the fact that children's life chances depend on their ability to communicate.'
She added, 'Not only has the Government clearly prioritised communication skills, they have also invested millions of pounds in it. This is a phenomenal achievement. It reflects the power of movements like Make Chatter Matter to create a sea-change in children's policy.'
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