Report (6th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:31 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 5:31 pm, 8th March 2012

My Lords, I shall be brief. First, I pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and thank him very much for his letter on this subject. I declare an interest as chairman of the All-Party Group on Speech and Language Difficulties. We have been campaigning in many Bills-education, welfare and justice-to make certain that every child is properly assessed not just for learning disabilities but for learning difficulties and particularly to enable every child to engage with the education system. The Minister has assured me that health visitors are being trained by speech and language therapists to enable that to be done. I hope very much that this will soon be the norm throughout the United Kingdom. Therefore, Amendments 238A, 238B, 238C, 238D and 238E add a little more to the debate that we had at earlier stages of the Bill.

In particular, I am anxious to make certain, if we possibly can, that the variability in commissioning between local areas is reviewed. In her recent report, the communications commissioner, Jean Gross, stated that there was considerable variety and that she expected to find such commissioning in only 70 per cent of local areas. This is unfortunate. I do not think it is right that there should be a postcode lottery in assessing our children's ability to engage with education.

I introduce the words "allied health professional" in Amendment 238B because the allied health professionals have responsibility for liaising between the primary and secondary sectors and therefore cover a wide number of disciplines. I include the words "education or children's services" in Amendments 238C, 238D and 238E in order to make certain that those services, along with the NHS and local government, are properly represented in ensuring that this opportunity is available to every child throughout the United Kingdom.

I appreciate that it may not seem appropriate to make these amendments to the Bill. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that these points will be made in instructions that go out about the health and well-being boards, the joint strategic boards and so on, even if they are not included in the Bill. I beg to move.