New UK review of provision for children with speech, language and communication needs


I CAN, the UK children’s communication charity, is to undertake an independent review of the state of provision for children’s speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in partnership with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

The review, entitled Bercow – Ten Years On, will be led by a panel chaired by Jean Gross CBE, the former Communication Champion for Children, and include leading figures from across the fields of education, health, the voluntary sector, parenting, special education needs, children’s services, academics and business. Its report is expected to be published in early 2018, a decade after the publication of the 2008 Bercow Report: A Review of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs.

Bercow – Ten Years On will analyse the many changes that have taken place over the past decade, their implications for children and their families and make recommendations for future action.

Announcing the review I CAN said:

Research is conclusive that language is the fundamental life skill for children, and language development has a profound impact on all other aspects of life.  However, far too little is being done to support children with language difficulties and there is insufficient recognition of how many children are affected. A recent study revealed that 7.58% of all children have a language impairment, or two children in every Year One class of 30 children. This compares to 1% of all children affected by autism and 2% affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Children with language difficulties are likely to have problems with reading, learning in school, socialising, making friends, and understanding and controlling emotions. Without the right support at the right time, a child’s life chances can be significantly hampered. Many children excluded from school, in care or involved in criminal activity have language and communication difficulties. However, their needs are often misinterpreted, misdiagnosed or missed altogether.

The 2008 Bercow report helped changed the landscape for children with SLCN, but the charity said much has changed since including a reformed schools system and widespread changes to special educational needs and disability provision through the Children and Families Act 2014. It also cited the impact of cuts to Children’s Services – including speech and language therapy – in many parts of the UK and longer waiting times for specialist interventions.

Jean Gross CBE said:

The first Bercow Review did a great deal of good for children, but we need to take stock now of what has been gained and what lost since its publication. I am encouraged by some of the brilliant work I see now in early years settings and schools, but very worried about the reductions to the specialist services that support these settings. Children’s life chances are at stake here, so we have to get it right.

Kamini Gadhok MBE, Chief Executive of RCSLT, said:

Speech, language and communication needs are not well understood by the general public and by some key decision-makers. Bercow – Ten Years On will raise awareness of these issues and identify key areas that need to be improved upon.

Chief Executive Bob Reitemeier, said:

I CAN is determined to make sure that meeting the needs of children with SLCN are a high priority for Theresa May’s government. It’s an outrage that in some areas of disadvantage over 50% of children start school with delayed language. We know that language is the absolute fundamental life skill that all children need to be independent, to build relationships and to gain employment. Is it imperative for our young people and for our country that we act now.


About Contributors

Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

1 Comment

  1. Morgaine seery on

    The service is ridiculously underfunded. Children are not being seen regularly enough sometimes waiting 6 months between appointments not even with the same professionals in the same departments. No wonder treatment and diagnosis takes so long, professionals aren’t able to spend enough time with frequent enough appointments to understand the child on the level that they need to with this kind of issue. Its not like a physical issue where a piece of equipment or a splint or some physical can help solve the issue or a drug will solve everything, this is something that takes time and a lot of input from the people around the child and parents are being left stranded without the support they need to support their child.

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