First Came the Bercow Review, now we are awaiting the Bercow: 10 Years On review.

In 2008, MP John Bercow delivered a report to the then Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, after being asked to review service provision for children and young people 0-19 years with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). This was a subject of personal importance to him, and he had raised the issue numerous times in Parliament.

The report aimed to review what provision was like across the country, how health and education services could work together to support early intervention, and to identify models of best practice that could be rolled out in other areas.

The final report identified five key themes that needed addressing in order to achieve change and improvement:

  • Communication is crucial;
  • Early identification and intervention are essential;
  • A continuum of services designed around the family is needed;
  • Joint working is critical; and
  • The current system is characterised by high variability and a lack of equity.

Along with each of these themes, a series of recommendations was made in order to achieve improvement – 40 in total. Examples included ensuring speech, language and communication is prioritised in children’s Sure Start centres, and including more training around SLCN for student teachers. The response, ‘Better Communication: An action plan to improve services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs’ accepted many of the report’s recommendations.

The report and its recommendations were certainly ambitious and parents and professionals alike welcomed the proposals made. But how many of these recommendations were actually implemented? How is the landscape today for children and their families affected by speech, language and communication needs? We have since seen reforms to the SEND Code of Practice, and the introduction of Education and Health Care Plans. What impact have these changes had on children and young people with SLCN and access to support?

Parents/carers, practitioners and employers have been invited to share their experiences as part of an independent review by I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) into SLCN provision, 10 years on from the original Bercow review. Many will welcome this chance to reflect on whether any real change occurred as a result of the original recommendations and call to action.

The Bercow:10 Years On review will be published on March 20th 2018. Watch this space for next month’s PART 2 where we reflect on the findings.

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