From September this year, all parents and carers with children aged 24-36 months in early years provision became entitled to a short written summary of their child’s development from the provider.
The summary should cover three prime learning and development areas: Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development; and Communication and Language. This is in addition to the check that health visitors carry out when children are two.
The two-year health visitor check has already helped Family Action children’s centres and the speech and language therapy team in Nottinghamshire target children who are slow talkers with the Hometalk programme.
If the check shows that a child’s collection of words is too small it’s sometimes a sign that the language environment is not rich enough at home. Family Action then works in families’ homes directly with parents on what they can do to improve their child’s language acquisition.
As a result Family Action has helped cut significantly the number of children who require speech and language therapy, meaning the Nottingham service can better support the children who need the therapy because they have deeper difficulties. Difficulties with producing speech and language may sometimes indicate other disabilities.
When children’s difficulties and disabilities are identified earlier parents and carers will need to be able to access support and services promptly.
In particular parents of children with special educational needs have not generally been well-supported during the early years, meaning that many children with SEN do not have their needs recognised until they reach secondary school.
The new Children and Families Bill, to be introduced into Parliament in the New Year, will require a multi-agency plan covering children and young people with special educational needs from birth to age 25.
Family Action is a supporter of the campaign coalition on the Bill being led by Every Disabled Child Matters and the Special Educational Needs Consortia. We support their calls that children and young people who have health or care needs, but are not covered by the current SEN framework, also be included in the new integrated system.
These children should be entitled to an assessment, and a plan where necessary, when the local offer, as it is provided across all agencies, cannot meet need.
Rhian Beynon is Head of Policy and Campaigns for the family intervention charity Family Action www.family-action.org.uk