Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Social Services
Following the publication of the Talk With Me: Speech, Language and Communication (SLC) Delivery Plan in November, we have been working to deliver our overarching commitment to improve outcomes for children through a fresh approach to promoting and supporting children’s speech, language and communication (SLC) needs.
I would like to take this opportunity to update you about the latest developments in delivering our commitments in the 'Talk With Me' plan.
Many children, but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have SLC needs, which may require support and intervention. The pandemic has had an impact on services and we continue to work with the NHS and specialist centres to help them meet children’s needs at this critical time.
Last year, we provided COVID recovery funding to address SLC needs. This helped SLC professionals to procure much-needed additional resources. I was heartened to learn about the impact of the funding on staff morale as well as the families who were supported.
I am pleased to announce we are making an additional £250,000 available in 2021-22 for health boards and specialist centres to continue to address SLC needs.
Professionals will again be able to use the extra funding flexibly to respond to local needs and demands. The focus will be on the early years and will include:
- Workforce development in line with demand from speech and language therapy managers – a key objective in the 'Talk With Me' delivery plan
- The purchase of digital and physical resources
- The procurement of IT for a range of uses including remote interventions for families and settings
- The purchase of 'It Takes Two to Talk' parent workbooks for all main libraries in Wales. These provide evidence-based advice for parents to support their children’s SLC development.
We have recently launched the all-Wales SLC training pathway for childcare practitioners, and have worked with the children’s communication charity Ican to adapt its ages and stages charts for Wales. We are also working to adapt and translate its SLC course for practitioners.
Resources developed for parents include a top tips on managing your child’s behaviour, which makes the links between SLC needs and behaviour and gives practical ideas to help. These resources are available at: www.gov.wales/talkwithme
We have awarded a contract to start a review of early language screening for children aged 0 and 4 years 11 months, to inform the development of an all-Wales early language screening tool. The final report with recommendations is due in early November.
Finally, we have awarded a contract for the 'Talk With Me' national campaign – the public health and education campaign will raise awareness and influence parental behaviour change. This will highlight the need for families to help develop the SLC skills of their children in the early years and advise them how they can provide a language-rich home environment. The contract will run until June 2023.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.