AN ASSEMBLY member has been honoured for his work to promote speech and language therapy.

Llyr Gruffydd, AM for North Wales, has been handed the Giving Voice Award by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) for raising awareness of the importance of early language development.

Research has shown that more than half of children from socially deprived areas are at significant risk of falling behind their peers in early language development, which has a profound impact on their prospects in later life.

The RCSLT said the AM "impressed with his contribution to raising the profile of this key issue" through hosting a debate in the Senedd and his activity in the media.

Mr Gruffydd received the award at the RCSLT's Honours Ceremony in Cardiff on Wednesday, October 3.

He said: “I’m honoured to receive this recognition from the RCSLT for taking up the issue of language and speech therapy in the Senedd.

“Research demonstrates the strong link between poverty and delays in language development, and there is an unacceptable and ongoing gap between the language skills of those from the poorest backgrounds and their peers from more affluent backgrounds. So, encouraging early language development is crucially important to close that attainment gap and to improve the life chances of our poorest children."

By the time that they are three years old, children from the poorest 20 per cent of the population are nearly a year-and-a-half behind a child in the highest income group in terms of language development.

Mr Gruffydd continued: “Children's poor speech, language and communication skills have a profound impact later in life in terms of mental health problems, unemployment and other life chances.

"Six out of 10 of the young people in the youth justice estate have communication difficulties, and 88 per cent of long-term unemployed young men have speech, language and communication needs.

“These staggering statistics should be evidence enough for politicians and policy-makers to make speech and language therapy a higher priority in Wales. We must all continue to highlight these messages until everyone has access to the support they need.”