(2) what support he will provide to parents through the Children’s Plan in relation to children with speech, language and communication difficulties;
(3) what guidance he plans to issue to (a) parent support advisors and (b) local authorities to help them assist parents of children with communication difficulties; and if he will make a statement;
(4) if he will include support for children with speech, language and communication difficulties in the Parent’s Charter; and if he will make a statement;
(5) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of joint working between local authorities and primary care trusts in (a) children’s centres, (b) primary schools and (c) secondary schools with regard to services for children with communication difficulties.
[holding answer 14 January 2008]: Effective language and communication skills are fundamental to children and young people’s learning, development of social skills and fulfilment of their potential. On 11 September 2007, my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Secretary of State for Health launched a major review of the provision of services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, to be led by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow).
The review will build on the investment and improvements to speech and language therapy and resources in the last 10 years. It will advise the Government on how the very best provision can be mirrored in all areas and how local services can work together so children and young people up to 19 years of age get the support they need, when they need it.
The review has been specifically asked to consider the clarity of accountability and responsibility for planning service delivery from national to local level across health, social services and education and to analyse good practice in joint working by schools, local authorities and PCTs, particularly in joint commissioning, including needs assessment and design of service delivery. As mentioned in the Children’s Plan, it will also look at means of improving support and information to parents.
The review plans to submit an interim report in March 2008 and produce a final report by July 2008.
As regards parent support advisers, we have recently announced funding to expand their availability in every local authority. These advisers work with parents to improve children’s behaviour and school attendance, offering advice with parenting, and providing support for families at the first sign a child or young person may be experiencing social, health or behavioural issues. Such support would include help where parents need it to address children’s communication needs.
The Parents’ Charter, as outlined in the Children’s Plan, will describe the minimum level of support all parents can expect to receive from their local authority. We are currently working on options for the design of a charter and these will be outlined in the spring following discussion with the newly established Parents Panel.