More toddlers struggling to communicate properly in Bedford than almost anywhere else in England

“Where you grow up shouldn’t affect your life chances”
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More toddlers are struggling to communicate properly in Bedford than almost anywhere else in England, new figures show.

Action for Children said the first few years of a child's life are "critical" for their development and called on the Government to address regional disparities across England.

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Office for Health Improvement and Disparities figures show 21 of 35 children aged between two and two-and-a-half in Bedford met the expected ability for communication (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)Office for Health Improvement and Disparities figures show 21 of 35 children aged between two and two-and-a-half in Bedford met the expected ability for communication (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Office for Health Improvement and Disparities figures show 21 of 35 children aged between two and two-and-a-half in Bedford met the expected ability for communication (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

Office for Health Improvement and Disparities figures show 21 of 35 children aged between two and two-and-a-half in Bedford met the expected ability for communication in the three months to March.

It meant 14 children did not have normal communication skills for their age – among the highest proportions in England.

Across England, 14% of children failed to meet the expected communication standard, however there was great variation in development from area to area.

At the other end of the scale, every child in Hull did have sufficient communication skills.

Action for Children said it is essential children "lay the right foundations" during the first few years of their life.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at the charity, said the regional disparity is "deeply worrying", with children in certain areas falling behind.

He added: "Where you grow up shouldn’t affect your life chances. If we want to give children the best start in life, early years services for parents are vital.

"The Government has invested in family hubs for around half of all local authorities in England. It must ensure that all preschool children and their families, in all areas, can access the support they need."

The figures also show 20% and 22.9% of children in Bedford did not have the expected gross and fine motor skills respectively for their age.

Gross motor skills involve large muscle movements, such as sitting and crawling, while fine motor skills involve smaller muscles and include movements such as holding, grasping or drawing.

Meanwhile, 25.7% did not reach the normal standard for social skills, and 17.1% fell short in problem-solving.