(2) whether children’s centres will be able to apply for support from his Department for (a) service delivery and (b) speech and language support as part of the children’s centres rollout;
(3) what support will be available to local authorities which identify a need for increased language support in children’s centres; and if he will make a statement.
We have a strong commitment to use children’s centres to provide integrated services including health services for families of young children. Speech and language therapy services are an important priority because foundations of communication skills development in the early years are crucial to maximising children’s outcomes. It is because of thiswe have a programme to support speech andlanguage development in early year settings—“Communicating Matters”—which was developed following consultation with all our delivery partners including voluntary sector providers. PCTs are the main providers of speech and language services through children’s centres and we work closely with the Department of Health on improving these services. Nationally, we are holding discussions with ICAN (a voluntary sector organisation with expertise in speech and language therapy) about a proposal for work in a number of children’s centres. The Sure Start Children’s Centres Practice Guidance supports the development of speech and language services through children’s centres and encourages them to work with PCTs and voluntary sector organisations in their area.