|Annette Brooke MP|
“I recently asked Sarah Teather, the former Minister of State for Children and Families, an oral question in Parliament on what more the Government can do to give better support to children with disabilities, including speech and language difficulties, through child care and in early learning centres. Sarah highlighted the publication of the draft provisions for special educational needs, which she hoped would go into the Bill next year. She said: “We are particularly looking at extending down the support and protection offered for children in the school system so that nought to fives get similar support.” She also pointed out that in the specific guidance to local authorities they highlighted the issue of making sure that they should provide more information for parents who have a disabled child.
The reason that I asked this question was my ongoing concern that, despite the campaign for ‘Every Disabled Child Matters’ and the work on speech and language difficulties following the Bercow Report – including the Hello campaign, the national year of communication run by The Communication Trust, I still find that more support is needed for children at preschool and nursery. Many years ago, I visited a nursery in Brighton which was offering mainstream provision but within this a specialist unit for children from across the town with speech and language difficulties. I was so impressed, but despite my enthusiastic local lobbying, there is no such specialist provision in Poole, Dorset. I want all children to have the best possible support without having to travel a long distance. With the prospect of new legislation for children with SEN, it seems appropriate to make sure that the calls for better approaches and provision are well and truly heard. We know that appropriate early intervention can make a lifetime’s difference for a child and we must grasp the opportunities that will arise with this legislation.
Since asking my question, there have been ministerial changes and so there is more to do right now. I welcome the joint commissioning of services, the introduction of Education, Health and Care Plans and a local offer to parents of children with SEN, including those with SCLN. We must make sure we stay on this track and also be ambitious about the outcomes we need, for example, reduced waiting times and better access to specialist support such as education psychologists, speech and language therapists.
My question didn’t get the full answer I would have liked but from past experience it is so important to keep going and raising the issues, over and over again!”