Thousands of children excluded from society, says Bercow

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The Independent Online

Thousands of children with speech and language problems are at risk of being excluded from society, the Tory MP John Bercow warned yesterday.

The MP, who is leading a Government review into services for children with communication problems, said that children were not benefiting from enough early intervention and could be "cast adrift" in society without essential communication skills.

Children with speech and language difficulties can have problems ranging from mild stammering, a delay in speaking or could have difficulties linked to other conditions such as autism or cerebral palsy.

"Access to information and services is often poor, services are very mixed, continuity across the age range is lacking, effective joint working between the health and education services is rare and there is something of a postcode lottery across the country," said Mr Bercow, who released his interim report on a visit to Wyvil School in south London yesterday. "Above all, local commissioners attach a low priority to the subject and this must change."

The review, commissioned by the Children, School and Families Secretary, Ed Balls, and the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, will be the first review of speech and language provision for seven years. More than 89,000 school-aged children are classed as having speech and language difficulties as their main special educational need, but many more have lesser difficulties or remain undiagnosed.