This week marks an important step for I CAN. Last July, in partnership with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) we launched Bercow: Ten Years On, a project designed to review support for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in England. This week we are launching phase one of our evidence gathering; an opportunity for us to hear the experiences of children, young people with SLCN and their families and those who work with them.
In 2008 John Bercow was asked to lead a review into provision for children and young people with SLCN. At that time, the review showed services to be highly variable and in many instances inadequate. The 40 recommendations in the final report aimed to transform provision for and the experiences of children and young people and their families, all of which were accepted by the Government. The energy this generated around the issue of children's communication resulted in a National Year of Communication and some innovative changes to the way support was planned and commissioned. However, nearly ten years on the momentum has been lost. There has been a widespread overhaul of the systems in which services operate and this, together with constrained finances, means that meeting the needs of children with SLCN remains an issue.
There is no doubt about the centrality of speech, language and communication as an essential life skill. A recent report highlighted the importance of oracy in schools and the need for the education system to give greater value to spoken language. And yet, still so many children struggle because they are unable to talk, understand and communicate their thoughts. The figures are shocking: in the UK, 1.4 million children have a long term, persistent SLCN and language disorder is seven times more prevalent than conditions such as autism. Ten years ago, one of the themes of John Bercow's report was the importance of early identification. Now, nearly 10 years later Bercow: Ten Years On has found that more than half of children with language difficulties are not being identified by primary schools, meaning they miss out on the crucial support they need. This is a situation that must change, and the information we gather from this phase of the Bercow: Ten Years On review will be fundamental in helping to make this happen.
The launch of our evidence gathering signals the first phase of this crucial project. We want as many people as possible to share their experiences of the reality of support and information for children, young people with SLCN and their families. Only through having this information can we understand what might need to change at both a local and national level to get children the help they need. Through understanding what good services for children and young people with SLCN look like, and how we can replicate that service elsewhere, we can work towards our mission: to inspire everyone to recognise and prioritise the centrality of children and young people's speech, language and communication.
To find out more, including how you can take part, visit the Bercow: Ten Years On website.