Monday, 20 December 2010

First phase of Hello website goes live - Nicola Matthews, Marketing Manager

It's been very busy times at The Communication Trust recently getting things ready for Hello, the 2011 national year of communication.

We have been working on new publications to help increase the understanding of speech, language and communication needs, developing posters for primary and secondary schools, and writing 'Ages and Stages' booklets to give guidance on if the child in your care is on the right track with their communication. And this is just a few of the free publications and resources we are going to provide next year.

The Hello website will be a portal for information about the campaign and be the main way to order and download the publications above. It will show how you can get involved in the campaign, activities that are happening in your area and share the stories of people who work in this field.

The first part of the website went live today, which is very exciting! So if you go to you will be able to view the brand new home page and the first section which explains what the campaign is, why it is needed and who is behind it. Please bookmark the site and more information will be uploaded shortly and the whole site will be ready next month.

The above is just a few of the things going on right now, watch this space for further updates.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Fingers crossed for our World of Difference Applicants! Mark Beagan, Partnerships Manager

Reminiscent of that classic 80s children program, we recently asked the question “Why Don’t You”....get involved in the Hello campaign and the national year of communication in 2011.

Now, there are at least four members of The Communication Trust team that will have no idea what I’m talking about. The rest of us, however, can complete, with ease, the following theme tune...."Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something....?".

What I’m trying to say, in a very roundabout way, is that we’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Alison, Linda, Annie and Robin, who have all applied to Vodafone’s ‘World of Difference’ scheme to support the Hello campaign next year! They’ve stepped forward to say they ‘want to do something’ for children that need help with their speech, language and communication in 2011.

Best of luck with your applications!

Monday, 15 November 2010

The power of the third sector - Wendy Lee, Professional Director

Since joining the third sector, I have had a strong and consistent message from our director Anita Kerwin-Nye regarding the unique expertise and position of the third sector. As a long term public sector professional, I felt the need to question this assertion; my feelings overwhelmingly told me that practitioners at the coal face make the difference – they really do! They have the expertise, the knowledge, the skills...

....though there is something missing.

In the public sector, there are amazing leaders and managers communicating the issue, networking, supporting their staff; who still manage, despite having the weight of the NHS machine on their shoulders, to have children and families at their heart. There are amazing practitioners, working with children, gifted in skills and expertise.

As a public sector worker, I spend time trying to avoid the constraints within which I found myself working, bending or working around rules (I confess – I didn’t go to the mandatory fire lectures on how to get sick people out of hospitals or the one on how to fit a cannualar). I spent a lot of time arguing with people about systems that didn’t work, a lot of time persuading, negotiating...I was told on more than one occasion that I was “difficult!” Hard to believe, I know!

What is missing for public sector workers is time and freedom. This is where the third sector comes into its own; it is not constrained by systems to ration, narrow or pigeon hole.

The third sector can and does employ a range of individuals with a range of expertise, not only in speech, language and communication needs, but in managing projects, partners, marketing, press and public affairs...collaborative working at its best.

They have a national perspective with strategic and policy expertise enabling them to knock on the door of MPs and say – think about this – it will make a difference – here’s the evidence – this is how it can work.

For practitioners the day job is providing a service, working with children and families. For the third sector, the day job is to listen to grass roots workers and families and to try and make the situation easier, smoother – better for children, families and for practitioners.

Anita said at our parliamentary event that the Hello campaign would not have happened without the third sector. She is absolutely right. She also said that the expertise needed was in that room – and for me, this is the key.

The Hello campaign is much more than a national campaign – as with communication, it is everybody’s business. People in that room were professionals, third sector, businesses, politicians, families and children – it is the combined and collaborative efforts of all that will turn the campaign into the national and local success it absolutely needs to be.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Start spreading the news - Andrew Ball, Campaign Director

It’s 3 weeks since we launched Hello at the House of Commons and it’s really starting to feel real now – even more so now that we have launched our first stakeholder communication pack (which you can download from

The communication pack is something that we’re going to issue on a monthly basis and add to as we go through the campaign. We hope that this first edition gives you lots of information about what we are trying to achieve and answers some of those burning questions you may have had – though it falls short of some of the harder questions in life like where do babies come from, what are we all doing here or how the hell is Wagner still in X Factor. If you have any suggestions on what we might include in future editions then please do let us know – you can e-mail the campaign team via

To quote Frank Sinatra: “doobe doobe doobe doo”. Sorry, wrong quote. Meant to say: “start spreading the news”. The more we can get people talking about Hello, blogging about Hello, e-mailing, tweeting, facebooking (sorry dictionary corner but I think I just made that verb up) or presenting about Hello the better. So please use the communication pack to help us get this out there – in many cases you just need to cut and paste, though it would be even better if you can put your own stamp on things.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Pixie donates song to anti-bullying

Pixie Lott has donated her song Get Weak to a bullying charity to raise awareness about the issue, it has been announced.

The song will become the anthem for Beatbullying's Big March, a global online protest campaign.

The Big March is calling for a bullying review to work with victims, schools and the Government to tackle the issues of bullying, harassment and violence against children.

It is also asking the Government to create two new Bills - a School Safety Bill to make it against the law to hurt, harass or bully children in school, and a Cyber Bullying Bill to protect youngsters online.

Ms Lott said: "As an ambassador of Beatbullying I know that anyone can be a victim of bullying - it's not embarrassing!"

"Tall or short, skinny or big, they always find something to pick at. Don't let them win. If you're determined to make it, you can and you will."

The song is available for free download for a limited period from the Beatbullying website -

Friday, 29 October 2010

Vodafone’s ‘World of Difference 2010’ - Mark Beagan, Partnerships Manager

Would you or someone you know like to take two months out to help make a huge success of the Hello campaign?

The Vodafone Foundation ‘World of Difference 2010’ programme is now open for applications until the 23rd November 2010 – so get your application in quick!‘World of Difference’ offers 500 people the chance to work for a UK-based charity for two months from March 2011, and get paid for your time.

The Communication Trust is calling for people to apply to help deliver the Hello Campaign. Perhaps you are a speech and language professional, teacher or parent? There are lots of ways that you can take part, from helping to deliver the campaign in your local region to working at our office in central London.

Interested? Then what are you waiting for?

We are particularly interested in people with a background and experience in:
speech, language and communication (such as a Speech and Language Therapist); project management; press and public relations; social media campaigns; evaluation; and participation (i.e. consultation and user engagement).

Applicants must be 18+ and be able to work full time for two months to support the Hello campaign. All placements must start in March 2011.

Talk to us today about how you can help Hello to improve the lives of children with communication difficulties. Call 020 7 843 2557 to find out more or email

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Round-up of the Comprehensive Spending Review - David Hare, The Whitehouse Consultancy Ltd

Below, David Hare from The WhiteHouse Consultancy, gives a summary of last week's announcements regarding the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

The CSR has been unveiled today and as predicted has made over £70 billion of real terms cuts over the period 2011-12 to 2014-15. The biggest winners from the CSR were health and international development – technically protected from cuts – but education also suffered less significant reductions than feared.

The budget of the Deptartment for Education will be down by 3.4% over the period, with schools budgets protected and a 12% reduction in other areas to allow this. Part of this reduction will come from rationalising or ending all centrally directed programmes, though what that means in practice remains unclear, particularly as the Government has committed to a national campaign to support families with multiple problems get the help that they need, suggesting some national programmes will be created.

The Pupil Premium will be introduced, Sure Start services will be maintained and extra Health Visitors will be recruited.

The main development for Special Educational Needs (SEN) is the announcement that children with SEN/disabilities will receive a personalised budget, though no information on how and when that will happen accompanied this announcement.

Local government will be forced to absorb significant cuts, suffering a substantial 27% reduction in real terms, though with far greater room for manoeuvre coming through the abolition of ring fencing in all but two areas. This extra flexibility is designed to help Local Authorities balance the books, but local government funding for services is likely to be highly constrained for several years. This will inevitably lead to a reduction in the number of contracts available for the voluntary sector, though for those contracts that do emerge, there is likely to be an extension of tariff payment mechanisms and payment by results and also a central government guarantee that a certain percentage of services must be delivered by the voluntary and independent sectors.

£470m will be made available to the voluntary sector to develop capacity, with some £100m being made available to support troubled voluntary agencies who deliver public services to keep that service going.

As Whitehouse has indicated for some time, the CSR has not set out every line of cuts that will be made by Departments; it has instead merely given Departmental allocations along with a few headline points as to what will go (and, also, what they have decided to retain). In some ways the more important announcements will come next month when all Departments set out their business plans to 2014-15, plans that will include more information on what has been cut.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Today is International Stammering Day

Working in the Third Sector, you don’t get too many perks, but last night I was lucky enough to attend the British Premiere of The Kings Speech. All thanks to the British Stammering Association.

It featured Colin Firth as King George VI, who had a stammer from an early age. The film focused mainly on the relationship with his self taught Australian Speech therapist, Lionel Logue. What struck me most about the film was the skill and determination of Lionel to help the King, it really showed the impact that a Speech Therapist can make.

Secondly, you could see close up the frustrations of the King, played expertly by Mr Firth. I do hope they award him an Oscar!

It has given me pause for thought on International Stammering Awareness Day about the frustrations that many children and young people have. I hope this film, and all the activity today, makes some people think about the challenges that many people face on a day to day basis in being able to communicate.

As for my perks the Stammering community have now given me the opportunity to meet Michael Palin and be quite close to Colin Firth so I consider myself a very lucky person indeed!

Hello – nice to meet you!

On Monday (18 October), we unveiled Hello as the name for the national year at an event at the House of Commons attended by Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, and about 150 of the most important people in the world of speech, language and communication.

It was great to finally be able to talk publically about the campaign and introduce people to some of the activities that they can expect to see during next year.

Whilst the event was of great importance to us, the unveiling of Hello wasn’t the most significant event in Parliament last week. That honour went to The Chancellor’s speech announcing the outcomes of the Governments spending review. The national year is not immune to the cuts that the Department for Education must find and we should know by the start of December what the implications of the spending review are on the funding that had been set aside for the national year.

Regardless of that, we continue to plan for the launch of Hello to the wider public in second half of January though naturally we will need to respond accordingly to whatever news we hear on funding in December.

Some of you may know the origins of the word Hello. According to the internet (which is never wrong is it?!) the word hello was first used as a telephone greeting by Thomas Edison – the story goes that he expressed his surprise with a misheard “Hullo”. So, how appropriate then that our friends at BT (who co-founded The Communication Trust in 2007 along with I CAN, Afasic and the Council for Disabled Children) should generously agree to extend their support for this cause by supporting Hello.

We have worked hard over recent months to plan and develop the national year - reducing our costs as we’ve gone along and preparing ourselves as best we can for a number of different funding scenarios. The support we have secured from BT together with the money that the voluntary sector is putting into the campaign shows how we are backing the national year - it’s now time for the Government to match our commitments to Hello with funding of its own.

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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

What are the similarities between The Communication Trust and a concrete mixer? - Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director

What goes into a concrete mixer is water, sand, cement and aggregate – very different raw materials that can do a very good job on their own right but which have limitations to their use and application (sounds a bit like Trust members).

What comes out of a concrete mixer is concrete – an extremely durable, versatile, flexible and long standing product that has many different and varied applications. It’s highly adaptable and, depending on the mix of raw materials, can be used for a broad range of jobs and applications.

The thing about a concrete mixer though is that once you’ve poured the raw ingredients in, you’ve got a small amount of time to get the job of mixing done and the concrete poured out of the mixer before it sets. Therefore it requires a high degree of skill to balance a highly volatile set of materials, that can go off at any time once they are mixed together, without ruining the end product (sounds a bit like the Trust).

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The wonders of Twitter - Nicola Matthews, Marketing Manager

A little while ago my director set up a twitter account for the Trust and asked me to look after it. Up until then I was completely faithful to facebook and hadn't even looked at twitter so it took me a little while to get used to it get used to a whole new language.

Now, I log on to twitter nearly everyday and think it's pretty incredible. Not only is it a great way to share information about the Trust (albeit in very short bite sized chunks) but I can also find out what our consortium members are up to, view helpful tips and sometimes rants from parents, see whats going on with young people who have communication difficulties and check out the odd celebrity!

I've also just found out about a new website, through the Childrens Trust Tadworth ( @childrens_trust) who are professional tweeters, that you can track how many times your tweet appears on someone else page, amazing! We've come up over 1,500 times in the last couple of weeks.

It is a incredibly powerful tool that I hope will be very useful to spreading our message, especially when it comes to the National Year of Speech, Language and Communication. So please have a look at our twitter page, @Comm_nTrust, and here's a few of my favourite tweeters:


Friday, 24 September 2010

Who needs awards - Cara Evans, Operations Director

So I was all prepared to be enjoying a bacon sandwich and drinking a can of coke to nurse my hangover this morning after celebrating our win at the Third Sector Excellence Awards last night for Charity Partnership, but it wasn’t meant to be.

As I listened to the rest of the winners being announced it got me to thinking. Who needs awards, we know what we have achieved; we have brought many charities together, some of which previously would not have spoken to each other, we are shared costs, brought in an extra million pounds into the sector, over 60% of which has been distributed to the existing charities, raised the profile of the cause, proved that the third sector can collaborate effectively and most importantly made a different to families and children.

I was humbled by the words of the lifetime achievement award winner - the third sector looks at what the needs are and what we can do to help. That is why we do what we do, who needs awards, (but it would have been nice to win one!).

Monday, 13 September 2010

Learning another language - Andrew Ball, Campaign Director

Somewhat depressingly the summer holidays are over for another year... I’ve just come back from a week in France with my wife and our 2 year old son.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well my A level French (which I’m legally obliged to point out that I failed) got me through – though to be honest it wasn’t as if I was trying to having any meaningful conversations with the locals, just ask for some wine (du vin) some bread (du pain) and some cheese (du Boison).

I’ve often heard Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) described as transporting someone into a foreign country where they don’t know the language – you’re still just as clever but your ability to understand and be understood is severely hampered. I find this a really helpful scenario to relate to this issue - a lot more so than some of the other descriptions the SLCN sector has used in recent times. Making SLCN more easily understood is one of the goals of the national year so if you have any examples of ways that you have achieved this then please do let us know.

I’m fortunate that my son’s ability to communicate appears to be developing typically – in fact I think he’s talking and understanding a lot more than he should do for his age (but that’s probably more a case of me showing early signs of being a pushy parent!). Whilst in France he learnt to say merci (thank you) and croissant (croissant) so at least if he follows in my footsteps and fails his French A level then he won’t go hungry.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

‘Three strikes and you’re executed’ - Dave Mahon, Programme Manager

A suggestion I read on the Treasury’s website inviting the public to make suggestions on spending cuts. The entry suggested that with a conviction for a third offence the person could be taken round the back of the court and justice dispensed. While this would undoubtedly save the state money the idea of executing three time shoplifters doesn’t sit particularly well with me. I think I would prefer to see the state save money by looking at the variety of factors that can contribute to offending and this includes issues around speech, language and communication needs.

The Trust’s youth justice programme is now entering a new phase as training will be delivered to frontline staff at YOTs across the country. The training helps staff to understand how communication needs can manifest themselves and how simple strategies can produce better outcomes for everyone.

This is not to say that if you understand the communication needs of young people youth crime will be eliminated, there are many, many different reasons why people offend. However, the number of young people in the youth justice system with communication needs is disproportionate to the general population so there is clearly an issue here to address.

An important part of all of our work is in the evaluation, about showing how the work we do is having a positive effect on the people it is aimed at, the youth justice workforce and ultimately the young people in their care in this case. We need to show more clearly the scale of the issue and identify gaps in service provision. We need to look at how young people are supported, how the training helps to change working practices and how it might affect YOT completion rates, attendance rates and breach of order rates.

As I mentioned, the communication needs of young people in the youth justice system are part of the broader issue but in the longer term we would hope that these needs are better recognised and that this recognition can have a positive effect on the lives of these young people.

For my money I would much rather see the state investing in prevention and helping young people to better understand the system they can find themselves a part of. Ignoring the needs of young offenders is unlikely to do anything in diverting them away from crime. As a society I hope we recognise that young offenders are not all ‘hooded wrong uns’ but young people that in many cases require support that may have been absent for most of their lives.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Awareness raising bad. Very bad. - Anita Kerwin-Nye, The Communication Trust

Well, at least according to government. Many Trust members in receipt of Children and Young People’s Grant funding have received letters restricting any spend on communications, awareness and marketing activity, even if that was the point of the original grant. This is in line with wider government activity restricting communications spending and outlined guidance from the Treasury released weeks after the election, (please e-mail to request a copy).

Of course there was a need to reign in communications spending – all governments spend an inordinate amount on untested and unevidenced marketing and campaigns and it genuinely pleasing to see the government restricting itself in this field (especially as recent experience showed how some government communications consultants daily fees are the equivalent of a consultant SLT for a week!)

But the guidance to voluntary organisations is a bit irritating and somewhat patronising. To say that we need ‘to make the most of very £1’ and to ‘prioritise funding to frontline staff’ is like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs (never really understood that phrase – can an expert in idiom and allegory please explain it to me!)

Many third sector bodies running communications activity also run frontline services. We know the reality that money spent on marketing and awareness raising is one less SLT or specialist teacher so we do not do it lightly.

So why do it at all?

First and foremost to get information to parents, children and young people and those that work with them. The single biggest complaint during the Bercow Review of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) was that parents did not have the information that they needed when they needed it. This both delayed the help that they got – in a field where early intervention is crucial – and increased their sense of isolation. This was particularly true for parents of children with specific language impairment where the lack of awareness of the condition was heartbreaking as doctors told parents their 4 year old son with no speech would ‘grow out of it’.

Studies consistently show that voluntary sector organisations are often the first port of call for parents (or the first positive source of information) and Talking Point (the speech and language information services that will be the Powerhouse behind the national year) already gets 20,000 hits a year. Member helpline services get thousands of calls a year from desperate families and the marketing of member frontline services is really just another way of ensuring that families can learn about the help that is available from both voluntary and public sector.

The information includes how to better access local provision and how many Trust members provide services that help parents and families better understand what is available to them and how to make their way through the maze of services.

Secondly in an era when government is rightly focusing on the local national voluntary organisations in particular can help local staff share their good practice and learn more about what others are doing. This sharing of what works helps save money – reducing the need for the wheel to be invented again and again. A recent Trust workshop between teachers and SLTs left participants with improved skills and a range of additional techniques that they did not have to invent themselves.

Both the Trust and our members constantly review both the need for communications and awareness raising. We analyse the best ways to get to parents and balance on line and print materials with support for frontline staff who work directly with hard to reach families. We balance well placed national media articles with local services that put experts directly in contact with families at shopping centres, children’s centres and schools. We can track how our awareness raising has started to improve earlier access to services and reduced the isolation of families but we are never complacent. We know the value we need to squeeze from the £1.

Lastly communications activity allows the Trust and our members to keep families and those that work with them up to date on government policy. As Cameron sets out the call for real people to inform government policy and to take forward ‘big society’ with personal responsibility this is surely an essential part of our work. The Trust’s networks reach nearly all of the million families of children with SLCN and communications activity gives them a voice to responds to policy changes and funding decisions that affect them. They can and will tell the government when they have got it right and they will be a powerful voice when they think the government has got it wrong. Now what government would not want to fund that?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Keeping an eye on recent developments - Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director

So I am a rubbish blogger. Official. Get too easily distracted by the day job and, over the last few months, been trying to figure out what new government policy means for children’s speech, language and communication.

Close to home strong lobbying has helped secure new government commitment to funding for the Northern Stammering Centre and regional expertise in Augmentative and Alternative Communication. While these vital specialist services run by Trust members are not out of the woods yet this is a good indication that the government recognises the need for such provision.

Likewise, selfishly, the government has confirmed the Trust funding for this year and has expressed sympathy and support for the aims and objectives of the National Year (waiting for the Spending Review to see how much makes the cut for 2011/12 funding).

But what about at a wider level? Strong interventions by the Special Educational Needs Consortium and several Trust members meant that the Academies Bill was passed with some commitments to protect resources for children and young people with SEN and a promise to assess the impact of academies on other schools in the area. Good outcomes but surely a little concerning that only the intervention of the voluntary sector ensured that these areas were even considered?

In our Minister, Sarah Teather MP, we have someone who recognises the importance of supporting children with SEN and disabilities and the specific importance of speech, language and communication (she did after all launch Make Chatter Matter for I CAN and put the 4th ‘r’ into the Lib Dem 4Rs review – we will forgive her for the fact that it stood for articulation as the sentiment was right!) She is launching an SEN Review, with a Green Paper in October, and has already met with the Trust on shaping content and structure.

This is promising news but, the launch of the NHS White Paper the week before we met the Minister shows that, when it wants, the Government can move swiftly on radical change. Yet in the field of SEN we need another review? Let us hope that the review is not an excuse for inaction. Government needs to take the learnings from Bercow, Lamb, Salt et al and must implement the promised actions from these, well evidenced, parent endorsed reports. Any new SEN Review must add value rather than detract from what we already know needs to happen to ensure better outcomes for children and young people with SLCN.

On the subject of reviews – there are many. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Review is welcome and provides an opportunity to both increase focus on early years language and look at mechanisms for early screening and assessment. There is much good in the EYFS and this review provides an opportunity for making it stronger (and simpler!). We are delighted that Dame Clare Tickell, CEO of one of the Trust members, is leading this review and that Jean Gross the Communication Champion is part of the advisory team.

Frank Field MP’s Poverty Review and Graham Allen MP’s Early Intervention Review both need a healthy dose of speech, language and communication expertise and the Trust will be inputting evidence of need and suggested approaches into both.
Separately, but needing clear links to all the work outlined above, there are plans for a Youth Justice Green Paper in the Autumn that has the opportunity to move forward how we meet the needs of the vulnerable young men and women in the youth justice system so many of whom have unmet SLCN or wider SEN.

But all these changes and reviews are small change compared to the big areas of mainstream education and the NHS. Both are being radically overhauled. Both are seeing changes in infrastructure, aims, objectives, funding and philosophy. Nobody really knows yet what this is going to look like. But we know for sure that posts are already being cut – stories from frontline staff suggest radical cuts to SLT and other specialists posts. And many of the changes will, if not explicitly then through their knock on effects, impact on the children that have additional needs. Take, for example, the cuts to the Building Schools for the Future programme – who would have benefitted most from schools with better access and acoustics? Central funding for Higher Level Teaching Assistants cut – who were they working with?

It is not that these changes do not bring opportunities – certainly there are some interesting possibilities for alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) within the Health White Paper and the new public health role of local authorities could play well to a recognition that speech, language and communication issues are a major public health issue.

But we need to be watchful – supportive when needed and challenging when appropriate. The world is moving quickly and we need to make sure that the 1 million plus children with speech, language and communication needs do not fall through the gaps.

So – the largest change in public sector provision in 50 years and a hundred reviews – maybe keeping an eye on that is an excuse for being behind with my blogs!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Tech Talk Troubles - Laura Smith, Media and Campaign Manager

All publicity is good publicity, right? This week’s media coverage has got me thinking. Our Communication Champion, Jean Gross, recently suggested that anything can be used as an opportunity to develop children’s communication, even travelling on your summer holidays.

What did we see in the headlines? Technology stunts children’s language development. And that the nanny state is trying to take over. Hmmm

The truth is that it is too simplistic to suggest that any column inches on communication means the issue has ‘arrived’. What it means is that we are on the road and its getting bumpy.

Our issue is one that is misunderstood and taken for granted. But, it is even more than that. The underlying causes of communication difficulties, and how they manifest, give even the speech and language sector headaches articulating. So is it any wonder corners get cut in the media?

Too often we have seen messages meant to empower and support families instead becoming parent blaming and patronising. Should we worry as long as newspapers devote space to the subject?

Yes, we should. Parents aren’t the problem, but they are part of the solution.

They are the solution when they learn more about how to develop communication and spot a problem before it becomes a language delay. They are also the solution when information empowers them to secure the right service for their child with long-term needs.

The key in all of this is getting information that motivates you, not turns you off and makes you feel guilty or bad.

So, what is the solution? Cut out the media ‘middle men’? Getting information directly into the hands of families will help and is something the National Year of Communication is looking at.

However, we won’t give up on media work just because it is hard sometimes. It is in the media that debates are had and where attitudes are formed and expressed.

We will keep going until our issue has fully emerged. We are lucky to have passionate voices in the speech and language sector, such as Jean Gross, and we don’t give up easily.

Friday, 30 July 2010

We are the best! - Andrew Ball, Campaign Director

Good news, The Communication Trust consortium has been shortlisted for a Third Sector Excellence Award. The Trust is a finalist in the Charity Partnerships category, which is for partnerships between two or more charities that have enabled the partners more effectively to deliver services, communicate, reach new groups or reduce costs.

The award period covers the past 12 months, a year in which amongst other achievements we increased our income by 148%, saw our membership grow by 27%, successfully lobbied for an increase in communication awareness training for the youth justice workforce, developed a number of speech, language and communication units for the Qualification and Curriculum Framework and successfully bid to run the national year of speech, language and communication. All these and more realised great benefits for our members and more importantly for many of the millions of children and young people that struggle to communicate.

Being shortlisted is great external recognition and endorsement for the hard work of everyone involved with the consortium and in particular for the drive, vision and leadership shown by Anita Kerwin Nye to bring the consortium together and to keep it together. The Communication Trust is all about collaboration: we believe that working collectively and in partnership delivers the right results.

So, although we are delighted to have been shortlisted, we would also like to congratulate the other nominees (the Better Banking Coalition, Macmillan Cancer Support & Citizen’s Advice, Navca, the NCVO & the Public Law Project and St Mungo’s & Marie Curie Cancer Care) as partnership working in our sector is not an easy thing to do but it is an essential thing to do if we are going to deliver the change that our respective beneficiaries rely on us achieving – perhaps now more than ever.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Communicating about communication – easy right? – Laura Smith, Media and Campaigns Manager

Daniel Boorstin once said ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.’ It has always been ironic to me that my chosen profession - public relations– suffers from complete and utter misunderstanding amongst the wider public.

On saying I work in PR, I immediately get ‘So you are a spin doctor?’ or jealous exclamations of ‘I watched Ab Fab, wish I went out partying with celebs’. Erm, so do I!

PR is defined as ‘the practice of building mutual understanding and creating a dialogue between an organisation and its stakeholders’. Oooh fancy! Fundamentally it is about communication – the currency of the 21st century world. And whilst many can consign PR to celebrities, products and crisis management (BP anyone?), it is so so much more than that.

The irony increases that the thing I am passionate about ‘PR’ing’ is the overlooked, misunderstood and taken for granted subject of supporting children’s speech, language and communication needs. In the UK today, 2.7 million children are living with some form of communication difficulty. This can affect them severely and for life.

I am constantly reading about ‘children’s behavioural difficulties’, ‘youth reoffending rates rising’ or ‘young people lacking basic skills in the workplace’. The consequences of not supporting children’s communication are played out in front of us on a daily basis. But the fundamental link that ‘communication equals life chances’ has not yet permeated the public consciousness.

Why not? Because it is too simple to suggest communication is important? Too obvious to support parents and professionals in this area? Well, sometimes we need to shine a light on the simple things in life. Chatter really does matter. This is why 2011 will be a National Year of Speech, Language and Communication.

This year will not be a PR exercise based on column inches; it will be about affecting real change for thousands of children and families. It will be about listening to others and getting information directly into the hands of those who need it.

So to come back to Mr Boorstein’s quote – all children are born with great potential, children with communication difficulties can, with support and understanding, achieve greatness and too many are currently suffering in silence. Creating a seismic shift in the way this issue is understood really would be ‘absolutely fabulous’.

Want to find out more? Got a view on how we do it? Let us know at

Friday, 16 July 2010

Austerity we know what it means now let’s make it work - Guest slot, Cara Evans, Operations Director

I have to say if I see austerity in one more magazine article or on a newspaper article I may scream. We get it, we all need to tighten are belts, make the pennies go futher. I totally agree with that. What I want to see now is action not just talk. At the Trust we have been cost saving since day one, not only that we are building the capacity of our partners.

As you know The Communication Trust is a coalition. Having worked in the voluntary sector for 15 years there is nothing more depressing than seeing new charities set up when ones already exist and are doing a good job. Just having additional overhead costs that don’t need to exist is simply wrong. Don’t get me wrong if there is a need for an additional charity that meets the needs to the users I have no argument.

So how does a our coalition work? The Trust and its partners have a common aim, to help children and young people who need support with their communication. We employ a very small core team, for every project we assess what we can achieve within the core team, and when we need extra support we turn to our partners and commission them, identifying who has the best expertise to get the job done, paying them a fair rate. We share accommodation with one of founders, thus sharing overheads costs. We have jointly tendered and won contracts. We share marketing and publication costs.

We have built a considerable amount of trust in our members to ensure we have their interests at heart, but ultimately it is using the best resources in the most efficient way to help the children and their families who need it most.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Something to Shout About - Guest slot, Andrew Ball, Campaign Manager

After months of anticipation the waiting is over. Over the coming weeks the country will witness the public humiliation of 11 individuals, as they gloriously fail to make a name for themselves in the full glare of millions of people. Anyway, enough of Big Brother – the World Cup is here and in my book that is a very good thing.

Whether or not you like football, I can guarantee that at some point during the tournament you will be drawn into the drama and excitement of watching England win the World Cup for the first time in 44 years (yes you did really just read that – and depending on when you logged on that prediction will be appear either prophetic or pathetic). There will be twists and turns along the way – injuries, upsets, even the odd missed penalty –but one thing’s for sure the tournament will get the country talking. And that’s part of the joy of the World Cup and other similar events that create widespread interest (even Big Brother for some bizarre reason) – they give us something to talk about.

Getting the public talking is one thing we want the national year to do next year. Talking about and realising the vital role that communication plays in everything we do. Because you’re reading this you’re probably already switched on to the notion that communication is the fundamental life skill – what we (as in everyone that works in this field) need to do next year is join forces to spread this message as far and as wide as we possibly can. So, ask not just what can the national year do for me but what can I do for the national year (to paraphrase badly!).

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Guest slot, Eve Wagg, Programme Manager

Why on earth would you be interested in what I have to say?

This I feel should very much be your sentiment as you embark on reading my first blog as Programme Manger at The Communication Trust. I'll give it to you; I'm not very interesting, or witty or astute. I moan...a bit. I talk...a lot. I also enjoy the sound of my own voice. But the one (ok I am being slightly dramatic here) thing that is genuinely interesting about my existence now is my involvement in the Trust.

I have come from a stint in the "not so glitzy and glamorous" event world. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of fun with parties, networking and live events. But, it showed me the variety and complexity of skills needed to succeed in the world that many people are not lucky enough to pick up through life, education and relationships.

Assimilating into different environments, understanding social nuances and being able to express and articulate yourself are fundamental skills that ensure a happy and successful future. Many of the children and young people we work to support are unable to do these things for a variety of reasons. They face challenges at every corner. During my role as an Event Manager the importance and sophistication of communication has never been so apparent. These skills you are not born with. It is the Trust's role to ensure everyone understands how they as a parent, teacher, friend or grandparent can assist in this vital journey.

As I read and attempted to sign 'Aliens Love Underpants' to my nephew this morning I realised what a vital role we play in this narrative. I very much look forward to ensuring everyone has access to the information they need to help every child reach their full potential.

So on that note, I'll stop talking, which as you know I do a lot, and leave you with a great short nursery rhyme to sing and sign to your nephew/niece/daughter/son/grandson/granddaughter/friend/student/neighbour (please delete as necessary). Please click here

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Guest slot, Dave Mahon, Programme Manager

I’m all talk...

...and language...

...and communication now.

Hi, I’m Dave Mahon and I’m two months into my role as Programme Manager at The Communications Trust (TCT).

I’ve spent the last ten years working in the local government field, at the Electoral Commission for six and a half years and the National Association of Local Councils for three and a half. Both jobs were challenging in their own way and provided me with many exciting opportunities, the highlight being nine days monitoring elections in Georgia. However, after ten years I felt due for a change and due a new challenge. I’ve found both!

My knowledge of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) was basic before I joined the TCT but the range of needs, the effort that goes into supporting young people and the gaps that still exist has been eye opening. Presently I am overseeing our youth justice programme which is focusing on raising awareness of SLCN across the youth justice system, providing awareness training and developing networks to enable youth justice workers to access information and share experiences. Having met and spoken to people across the youth justice system I am greatly encouraged by their dedication in what are often very challenging roles. It is also encouraging to see that the importance of recognising SLCNs is already a key issue for many across the youth justice system.

Research suggests that at least 60% of young people in the youth justice system have communication needs compared to 10% in the general population. I’m no mathematician but these figures should be a cause for concern. Over half the young people in the youth justice system may not easily understand what is being said to them or may struggle to be understood, this can cause problems around their behaviour, affect their confidence and influence their relationships with other people. Where a greater understanding of these needs exists strategies can be put in place to help the young person and help build better relationships with youth justice staff. We would hope that in the longer term this could have a positive effect on reoffending by young people as their needs are better recognised and catered for at all junctures of the system.

Check out the new Sentence Trouble website, join the forum and let’s start talking more about how we can support young people in the youth justice system.

Monday, 24 May 2010

A well kept secret... - Guest slot, Wendy Lee, Professional Director

I’ve had the privilege of working with some pretty remarkable individuals over the past 20+ years in my job as an SLT. Though I have worked with some brilliant, wonderful colleagues (present company very much included), the most amazing individuals (by quite a long way – sorry guys) are children with SLCN.

Without exception, these children have been amazing... Incredible...Remarkable... wonderful (look up amazing in a thesaurus and you will get the idea).

They live in a world where pretty much every aspect of life depends on their ability to understand and to talk. For many, just listening to the language filling the air around them is a challenge. These children are often judged, misunderstood or just missed! ... and often they can’t let people know.... Frustrating really doesn’t cover it!!

Walk yourself through your average day without the ability to talk and you get a flavour...
My job as a practising SLT meant that I got to work with these children - and it is really hard work (for them, not me). For many, I saw them develop, talk more, express themselves, make friends – I saw the anxiety that sits over many of these children dissipate. What an amazing thing!

For other children it meant a tougher route, a more difficult challenge and the acceptance that this was always going to be difficult – that they would always need to work harder than the child next to them to get to the same place and despite monumental effort may never get to that place – and that very few people around them would really “get” that.

I’d love for this well kept secret to be shared – for everyone to “get” SLCN, for these kids to be understood, no longer misjudged, misinterpreted or missed, for people to feel, as I do that they are amazing, get the picture.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Communication is really important – yes, really it is - Guest slot, Lisa Morgan, Professional Director

Generally speaking, I like soap box opportunities, so writing a blog seemed a gift. However, it has been remarkably difficult but I couldn’t work out why. Just north of Market Harborough, it dawned. Usually, when I step up and start rambling, there are other people there. Admittedly, many drift off along the way, but there are always other people there. Writing this on my own, as if I’m talking to people who aren’t here, is, quite frankly, weird. However, it does lead into what I wanted to say in the first place…

Through work, I’m well-versed and completely committed to communication being important for many reasons –expressing needs, learning, social and emotional development and so on. But I’m having a bit of a renaissance about how truly vital communication is to our relationships, our belonging and just pure enjoyment. Everywhere I go, I see people linking with others through talking about stuff - sharing, with others, through communicating. For some people, though, communication causes challenges which makes that sharing, that belonging, that enjoyment way more difficult.

We have a favourite family joke. From confused beginnings it now contains the key elements of a joke - makes sense, has an ending and is funny (ish). Their joy as my children tell it over again, reminds me, in a tiny way, of how we must not undervalue the importance of communication as something enjoyable, which makes us in touch and helps us belong. It’s so vital that everyone can have the skills they need and the opportunities they want to do just that. It doesn’t mean that all the other functions and roles of language become less important, just that we need to continue expressing from a giant pile of soap boxes that for everyone, for many reasons, communication is really, really important –it really is.

‘Why did the banana go to the doctor?’
‘I don’t know, why did the banana go to the Doctor?’
‘Because it wasn’t peeling very well!’

Monday, 10 May 2010

Diamond Lights - Guest slot, Andrew Ball, Campaign Director

This week marks my 10th anniversary of joining the voluntary sector. In that time I’ve been fortunate to have met some very remarkable people (and some pretty unremarkable ones too) but probably none more so than the parents and professionals working to support children who need help to communicate. As anyone that has ever volunteered, worked for or supported a charity will tell you, personal experience is one of the most important reasons why they give their time and support to their chosen cause.

Since I joined The Communication Trust it’s become very clear that for a long time so much of the great work that goes on in the children’s communication sector is a result of the passion and dedication of a small number of individuals – most of whom have firsthand experience of the struggle that they, their children or children close to them have faced because of some form of speech, language and communication need. What’s more, this relatively small band of people have faced the uphill task of creating a better understanding of this issue without the media spotlight or glare of publicity that many other causes have benefited from at various times over recent decades – despite this being an issue that impacts on more lives in the UK than most of the big cause célèbres we could all name.

Help, however, is now at hand with the fast approaching national year of ENTER WORKING TITLE OF CHOICE HERE! This awareness campaign will shine a big, bright light on our sector and build on recent successes in emerging this cause. The national year will increase broad understanding of how children’s communication skills should be developing , what the effects are of speech, language and communication needs and what local services parents and children need in order to make a real difference to such needs. If you have anything in particular that you would like to see happen during the national year then please do get in touch – you can tells us your views at .

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

You always remember the good ones - Guest slot, Nicola Matthews, Project Executive

I work at The Communication Trust and do a little bit of everything and anything! I have a number of friends who are primary school teachers and thought, since I work for a charity whose one of their main audiences is teachers, I would go and watch one of them in action and get a taste of their day to day life.

So the other week I went to visit my friend Nikk (or Miss Dimes to the children) in her classroom and got to spend the morning watching her teach a bunch of very active and enthusiastic 5 and 6 year olds.

And it as brilliant, I watched the children being tested on the vocab they had been learning, helped out with one of the groups doing an maths addition activity and spoke to some of the other teachers in the school. But most importantly I got to see firsthand the impact a teacher can have on a child’s life. These children hung on every word Nikk said, they were incredibly engaged with the activities she was giving them and were so well behaved.

I’m sure when these children are older, in 20, 30 years time they will look back at their school years and will remember Miss Dimes. I still remember the name of my Year 2 teacher; Mrs Moulsham who read us Charlotte’s Web and had the most amazing cage for the class hamsters! In fact, I remember all the names of the teachers who taught lessons which I actually enjoyed going to and learnt something from. Which goes to show you always remember the good teachers.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Slow Communication

Ok. I admit it. I am an appalling blogger. It has been two months since my last blog. This is bad.

In part my position is defensible – I’ve been too busy to blog! The Communication Trust has won the contract to run a mass awareness and information campaign around speech, language and communication in 2011 and we are extending our secondary and youth justice work. Future blogs will share the detail but to get involved subscribe to our newsletter by e-mailing

However the title of this blog does not refer to the speed of my blogging. I have also been on holiday for nearly three weeks. Bliss. First real break for too long. And it was a real break. I turned off my mobile phone, unplugged the internet (took me a while to figure out how to do that) and relied on good old fashioned methods of communication. Talking, reading, drawing, listening (to my children a lot – did you know Miley Cyrus was just not cool any more – I do now) and sometimes just enjoying being quiet and watching (a good tactic when faced with moody eleven year old whose body language speaks volumes but who is refusing to talk).

It was this absence of continual information, of the bombardment that technology can bring that created the best possible rest. Don’t get me wrong I live glued to my mobile phone – texting and calls are an essential part of my job and social life, Skype is the best way to get gossip and don’t even get me on to online shopping. But it was nice to stop. However, it was also harder than I thought to switch back to ‘slow’ communication.

Reading a book to get a recipe rather than taking the first one that comes up on Google (which is probably why my cooking is so dodgy); removing games and DVDs from the kids in the car so we had to sing (badly) or talk (or shout) – these things while leading to good results, were a challenge to do. Maybe I am just rubbish at using technology appropriately and am alone in my over reliance on it at the cost of wider communication skills - but I don’t think so. I love face to face discussions; long chats on the phone; reading – and I am skilled at these things. But it was still hard for me to break the technology habits.

Now if I find it hard to revert to these ‘old fashioned’ methods of communication and this technology is new to me (relatively – I did not use a computer until I was 25) how much harder will the next generation find it – immersed as they are in it from birth. My primary school aged kids are adept at Skype, MSN, texting, gaming etc. and DVDs (downloads actually) are indeed a great babysitter.

Leaving aside the Daily Mail cries of bad parenting is it not time for a debate on how we should be preparing and supporting young people for this world of mass communication – without the hysteria and blame. The next generations will have a range of methods of communicating that we have not even considered yet. They will be able to communicate faster, with more people and receive more information than we were able to at their age. How wonderful for them – how exciting. Maybe ‘slow communication’ will become extinct? Maybe we will start to value even more those that can still communicate face to face? Maybe skills will diminish so all spoken language becomes an anachronism?

But for now, before we leap into the brave new world of Cybermen (downloaded too many Doctor Who episodes clearly), let us just start with embracing and accepting this new technology is here and working with young people to help them develop the broadest range of ways to communicate.

And for me – a healthy reminder that pulling the plug is a welcome break. Now back to the emails!

Monday, 19 April 2010

A tardis in reverse - guest slot from Norbert Lieckfeldt, Chief Executive of the British Stammering Association

The British Stammering Association is the UK’s national association on all aspects of stammering. Founded over thirty years ago, we are the place where adults who stammer, parent of stammering children and anyone else interested in the subject join forces to provide information, campaign for changes in services and raise awareness of the problems affecting people who stammer of all ages. Stammering affects about 5-7% of pre-school children, and about 1% of the school-age and adult population – that is about 720,000 people in the UK.

Our Information and Support Service is operating a telephone helpline, 0845 603 2001, and our website is the most comprehensive web-based source of information on all aspects of stammering. The helpline sends out 2,500 information packs each year, and the website is accessed by 14,000 individual users every month. We have recently started Facebook and twitter campaigns as well.

We have developed detailed strategies for supporting children who stammer in the school setting – something which will be shortly freely available on a dedicated website at

Our pre-school projects and campaigns are based on the recognition that early intervention can prevent a lifetime of stammering – and that far too many children still slip through the net when a brief, therapeutic intervention at the age of 3 or 4 might have resolved the problem of stammering completely. We have recently developed criteria for a model of service delivery for pre-school dysfluency and have tested this successfully in six pilot trusts – more children were referred, they were referred at a younger age, but successful intervention was quicker so they were discharged more quickly and thus there was no detrimental impact on the services for other children with SLCN; we are hoping to be able to roll this out across the country, possibly with some input from the Better Communication Research Programme.

So why “a tardis in reverse”, though? We are a relatively small charity, led by people who stammer, with a modest income and a small staff team. This was the phrase one of our members once used to describe us – we are “much bigger on the outside than on the inside”.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Saving time, money and avoiding disaster - guest slot

This week's blog is by Cara Evans, Deputy Director at The Communication Trust:

I started at the Trust almost at inception and with my most esteemed colleagues I have developed the governance, working principles and structure at the Trust. Through this blog I want to explain the values and impact of good project management. Now I know if I had included that as my title I would have turned you off at the first hurdle. I ask you to bear with me so that you too can save time and avoid disaster in all that you do!

Someone recently almost referred to me as JUST a project manager and quickly corrected herself. I will be bold in my next statement but very confident it is correct. The Trust would not have been as successful in such a short space of time without good project management principles at its very core. Simply we make sure that everything the Trust does is delivered on time, on budget and to an agreed quality. It is all very good having creative ideas but they need to be delivered. It is essentially very simple, but requires a certain skill set and knowledge to do this with charm and finesse. Good project managers are in short supply and seriously undervalued in the third sector in my experience (having worked for 15 years for 10 charities).

Let me ask a question would you ask a project manager to assess a child with speech, language and communication needs and suggest ways to support that child and their family. I think not, so why are we asking these experts to manage a project.

So what is project management and why is it so important. Essentially you follow a simple path ; you decide what you want to do, why, you agree how it can be delivered, who is involved and why, when does it needs to be done and how much will it cost. You plan and monitor, you get on with it, job done! Ok there are a few more things you need to consider and this is a very short list but you get the idea.

I say to all you project managers out there don’t let anyone call you JUST a project manager, stand proud of your skills and expertise and show them how it’s done!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Start of a social movement?...

I like this. Not because it is a particularly good joke (I am more of a Clare in the Community girl myself) but because it shows the issue has arrived. Well, at least that the issue has left the station.

The Communication Trust has, as a core strategic objective, the development of social movement to claim communication as a right. Social movement is a grand term, much written upon (Google Tily to get a sense of the theory). But in essence a social movement is a major vehicle for ordinary people's participation in public politics. For recent examples ‘think green’ or ‘drop the debt’. Ordinary people mobilised, often by the third sector, to take action and become ‘we’ rather than ‘they’. When communication skills becomes the ‘third pint in the pub’ issue; when Jeremy Kyle invites parents of children with SLCN onto his show; when 10 000 turn up outside Westminster with ‘communicate by right’ banners then we will know we are getting there. Bad comic strips jokes are a good start.

Seeing communication as the 21st century life skill, and knowing as we do how many children do not have the skills or support that they need, how could we want anything less than a movement to make change. Social movement brings policy change and funding and changes attitudes. And we need all three – now. The National Year should help give us a push but the work of the Trust, Trust members and now the Champion have certainly created the media interest that will help form the basis of such of the movement that we aspire to.

Not all of this media coverage has been helpful. Little upset to find out that my desire for materials things (handbags in my case) and working motherhood is apparently the reason for my daughter’s challenges with phonics (thank you Guardian - really the Guardian??!!). And SLTs as elocutionists for the middle classes? (Evening Standard – slightly less surprise there). But some has been wonderful. The recent Times and Independent pieces really outline well the challenges some children face. And the emerging debate is one to be captured and developed (read for example the Observer piece in defence of computer games).

So. A good start. Let’s keep up the momentum. And if my view of emerging the issue is an Eastenders character with specific language impairment falling in love with their speech and language therapist (yes I know it is unprofessional but it is Eastenders right) then what is yours?

Monday, 4 January 2010

New Year's Resolution

I love New Year. A chance to make lots of new promises to be a better and improved person. I have been told that, apparently, resolving to buy myself one new handbag a month is not an appropriate resolution so have settled instead for another gym membership (this time one that I intend to use because I have also been told that buying a gym membership in January and only going once in September is, apparently, a very expensive way to do one step class).

More importantly two resolutions that might actually matter.
1) To blog weekly and not require my team to beat me over head to write something
2) To champion the third sector as a significant force for change in children’s lives

In my defence 1 has sometimes not happened because I have been busy doing 2.

Some of you have commented on the recent Third Sector debate that I took part in which looked at whether, given the recession, the sector should be more professional (implicit in this that we should be more like corporate institutions like, say, banks).

This reminded me of a recent ceremony I attended at a top rated London business school where the Dean expressed his pleasure that the students who were studying for their Masters in Voluntary Sector management had so many opportunities to learn about ‘real life’ (seriously that is what he said) from fellow post graduates undertaking study in banking, finance and corporate administration who, after all, have the expertise and business skills that charities so desperately need (seriously he said that too!).

It is also true that some charities could do with say, more support with commercial skills or with finance and legal matters. But, hey, is that not true of some corporate and public sector bodies too (or did I misunderstand the stories that dominated the press in 2009?).

The third sector is professional. We are complicit sometimes in defining professional in terms that private, and sometimes public sector, bodies value e.g. slick branding; reducing costs; increasing profit; efficiencies, market domination, staff with letters after their name etc. Not that these things do not matter to charities (indeed as anyone who has run a successful charity on a shoe string and no cash flow knows points 2 and 3 are core skills for any successful charity CEO). But when we define professionalism it should be in terms of our outcomes for our beneficiaries. It should be about our effectiveness and our values.

The Communication Trust's membership is full of organisations bursting with clever, able professionals delivering excellent services to some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society. Trust members employ some of the most qualified and experienced speech and language therapists and specialist teachers in the country (putting to rest another common misconception that the third sector has limited expertise – a regular challenge from public sector unions in recent months).

Trust members drove the campaigning that led to the Bercow Review and the Better Communication Action Plan. The third sector can lobby for improved public sector services and for more resources to flow to local provision in a way that front line public sector staff will always be challenged to (as one PCT employed SLT told me recently – “we know that the provision is not good enough post-11 but if we say so we criticise our employer but if you say it they might not cut posts”).

Trust members run outstanding (OFSTED says so) non maintained special schools. Thousands of parents get their first, and sometimes only, advice, information and support from voluntary organisations.

And, for so many children with the most severe and complex speech, language and communication needs it is often Trust members who provide the vital lifeline when working through the maze of public sector provision. This often draws on the experiences and expertise of, often voluntary and ‘unqualified’, parents who have been there themselves (which makes a lie of the common myth that professional only means paid staff and that expert can only mean a degree).

Are the third sector better than corporate providers? Yes sometimes. Are we better than public sector provision? Yes sometimes. Could we learn from both the corporate and public sector? Yes and we should strive to do so.

Celebrating the strengths, expertise and professionalism of the third sector should not be seen as putting down corporate and public sector colleagues. No sector, private, public or third, has the monopoly on good work or effective outcomes and it will take collaboration to get the best possible results for children and their families.

I believe that the third sector has something special to give so for 2010 I resolve to be the sector’s biggest cheerleader.

Something slightly easier to do than a weekly trip to the gym.