Speech and language therapists raise workload alarm

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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Almost half of speech and language therapists say that they do not have enough time or resources to provide support to students who have communication problems but who do not have Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).

A study by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists warns that focus has been directed on to pupils who have EHCPs, to the detriment of those who don’t.

Forty-five per cent of 350 speech and language therapists (SLTs) who responded to a survey for the report said they did not have time or resources to support non-EHCP students. This is despite government figures showing that 86 per cent of children and young people with communication problems do not have an EHCP.

The report states: “SLTs reported a refocus of resources to support children with EHCPs, which has often been to the detriment of children without EHCPs. Only 40 per cent of respondents said that they had capacity to deliver services to children without EHCPs. Several commented that these children are receiving reduced support, and in some cases no direct speech and language therapy support, due to capacity challenges.”

Elsewhere, the report warns that a third of SLTs say they do not have the time to attend EHCP planning meetings and report problems such as a lack of sufficient notice from local authorities preventing proper input into the EHCP process.

The Royal College is now calling for the government to guarantee that local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) commission enough speech and language therapy services.

CEO of the Royal College, Kamini Gadhok, said: “This is alarming, as we already know from the Department for Education that 86 per cent of children and young people who have communication problems as their primary need do not have an EHCP. Our members have sent a clear message that due to local budget cuts and changes to commissioning priorities these vulnerable children and young people are at risk of not getting the support they need.

“Research has shown that vocabulary difficulties at a young age are associated with poor literacy, mental health, and employment outcomes in later life. Early speech and language support is vital to children’s success and action must be taken.”

Commenting on the findings, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “We know from our members that speech and language therapy services for children are being cut, which is having a huge impact on children.

“School leaders see first-hand the impact that speech and language therapy can have on a child’s learning. Without it many children are locked out of education.”

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