Children's speech therapy services reduced

By Daniel Gee   |   Head of Content   |
Friday 18th January 2019 6:13 am
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Speech and language therapy intervention in schools has been ’significantly’ reduced since the start of this month.

The announcement was made by the Department of Health and Social Care due to an imbalance between staffing and demand, as the number of patients who are to receive treatment has increased.

Special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) and head teachers around the island were informed in early December of the changes, including a change in the criteria for new referrals.

Frances Butler, clinical team lead at Children’s Therapy, said: ’Due to a service restructure which took effect this academic year, the Speech and Language Therapy Service has been required to absorb 150 additional cases without a corresponding increase in staffing levels.

’In addition to this, a member of our team will be taking maternity leave in the New Year.

’It has been agreed that we can advertise a temporary role to partly cover this reduction in staff.

’However, in view of the above we cannot continue to deliver our current levels of service.

’Unfortunately we have had to consider how to best manage the current caseload with these reduced staffing levels.

’It does mean that we will have to suspend certain services to school-aged children for the time-being.’

These changes were put into effect on January 1.

The service will prioritise children in their early years (pre-school and reception aged children) who are currently receiving intervention.

The early intervention is said to result in the children becoming more ’school ready’.

This, the service has said, will lead to the children being able to access their education with minimum support from teachers and other educational professionals.

It is also to protect them against social, emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties.

Within schools, the service will initially focus on children in reception and year one classes (ages five to six) who have ’complex’ speech disorders. A speech and language therapist (SLT) will visit the school to provide direct therapy on a ’term on, term off’ basis.

This means there will be no visiting SLT in some schools for the spring term.

’There will be no direct input for children with language difficulties in any school,’ Ms Butler said.

In terms of referrals, new referrals will continue to be accepted.

These children will be assessed and those needing intervention will be put on a waiting list for therapy.

The waiting time for initial assessments is currently at four months.

New referrals for key stage two and above (from aged seven) will not be accepted.

’The list will be closed. However, referrals for stammering will continue to be accepted,’ added Ms Butler.

’We appreciate that this is not an ideal situation but hope that this information will allow you to respond with clarity in managing the expectations of parents of children with speech, language or communication difficulty.

’We will be writing separately to the parents of children affected by the changes to explain the situation.’

She added that the service will monitor progress throughout the spring terms and provide ’the best possible service in the circumstances’.


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