Young children with speech and language difficulties will benefit from a new Halton Borough Council scheme to support them and their families in developing communication skills.

The Council is one of only eight local authority areas to receive a share of the Department for Education’s £6.5m Early Outcomes Fund to tackle communication difficulties at a young age to ensure children are equipped with the language skills needed to thrive at school.

These problems include mispronunciation, missing speech sounds, difficulties forming sentences, lack of communication skills and social skills.

Halton successfully bid for a share of the funding and received £583,000 for its TALK Halton project. This will involve recruiting new speech and language therapists and training early years professionals in using a national screening toolkit to identify early language needs among 2-4 year olds. The help these children will receive should reduce the number of children referred to the Council’s speech and language service when they are 5.

The training to be given to existing staff working in early years settings – pre-schools, day nurseries , children’s centres and maintained nursery schools – plus health professionals ie health visitors.

The project will provide a range of workshops and training courses led by specialists to provide the best support for families, plus family reading sessions.

Mil Vasic, Halton Council’s Strategic Director for People, welcomed the funding:  “It will enable us to upskill our staff so they are better able to identify communication difficulties at the earliest stage and support them in their development of language. This should result in a fewer referrals from early years settings to our speech and language service.

“Our aim is to give every child the best start in life and so our goal is for every child who needs this help to receive it during the life of the scheme.”

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