HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 cc512-3W
Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what representations he has received from LEAs requesting central Government ring-fenced financing for voice output communication aids in special schools for pupils with communication difficulties; and if he will make a statement; [119221]

(2) what steps his Department is taking to help special schools and LEAs to improve the provision of communication aids for children with speech and communication problems; [119222]

(3) if he will make a statement on his Department's policy on the provision of voice output communication aids in special schools, for children with learning disabilities and lack of verbal communication skills; [119223]

(4) what responsibility his Department has for the provision of voice output communication aids for pupils attending special schools who have health-related disabilities; and if he will make a statement. [119224]

Mr. Hutton

We have received no direct representations from local education authorities about communication aids for children in special schools.

Between 1992 and 1995, the Department, in collaboration with the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), funded an initiative on communication aids for children which published Guidelines to Good Practice in 1995. This promotes the importance of a jointly planned, funded and delivered service. It advocates a multi-professional local service to meet local needs.

This guidance continues to reflect Departmental policy. We do however recognise that further development is needed to ensure local services are able to take advantage of the wide range of sophisticated electronic devices which are now available.

We are currently considering with DfEE what action may be necessary to further improve these services.