Parents, carers and those who work with children and young people in Suffolk with specialist speech, language and communication (SLC) needs have been invited to have their say on a proposed new model for delivering services.
The integrated model was co-produced by education, health and care specialists in partnership with parent carer representatives.
All those involved have previously acknowledged that Suffolk services for supporting the development of children’s SLC needs required urgent improvement.
The key areas highlighted as requiring improvement included:
- reducing the time children and young people had to wait to receive speech and language therapy
- better skills, training and tools for those working with children and young people in order to provide early support and a better understanding of when they needed referral to therapy, and
- consistency of support available across the whole of Suffolk.
It was these concerns, coupled with the findings of the 2007 Bercow Report into services for children and young people with SLC needs, that helped shape the new model for Suffolk.
Parents and carers have until Monday 22nd April to give their feedback on the model, which can be accessed online HERE
It is well known that if children do not get the help they need early enough in their lives, the negative impact on them and their families can be significant and enduring.
Under the proposed new model, funding has been secured to give primary school and nursery staff, childminders, health visitors and other professionals the confidence, skills, knowledge and tools they need to identify SLC needs in children at an early stage.
This will also equip them to provide support to children and, where appropriate, refer them to speech and language therapists.
An additional £1 million has been agreed over the next two years to recruit more therapists, invest in outreach and fund training and diagnosis tools to reduce waiting times.
The model also aims to ensure that Suffolk’s Local Offer website HERE features useful information for parents and carers, including a flow chart that enables them to track their children's progress through the services.
It also seeks to give primary school staff access to Speech Link and Language Link, tools that will enable screening of all children to assess whether or not they need extra help with their speech and language.
Parents are also being consulted on plans to close Suffolk’s three existing speech and language units and replace them with the Specialist Education Outreach Service, a six-strong teaching team.
The team will work alongside primary schools, families and speech and language therapists to ensure the inclusion of children with SLC needs in mainstream education.
Jo Hammond, Co-Chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said:
“Being able to communicate is vital and we are relieved that there has been a financial commitment to the significant investment that was desperately needed.
“For a large proportion of children and young people in Suffolk, having timely access to services and appropriate interventions to support Speech, Language and Communication (SLC) needs has been extremely challenging. At times there has been no support at all.
“Having been involved in co-producing the proposed model we remain hopeful that the investment into WellCom screening packs, Makaton Training, Speech Link and Language Link, and the huge investment in therapists and the proposed outreach model, will improve the outcomes for our children and young people in the future.”
Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, said:
“We need to make sure our services are fit for purpose and support the development of children’s speech, language and communications both now and in the future.
“If a child does not get the help he or she needs, the negative impact on them and their family can be significant.
“A great deal of work has been done to re-design services that meet the needs of Suffolk’s children.
“I welcome the considerable additional investment that colleagues in the clinical commissioning groups have committed to over the next two years for additional therapy, and the investment in training and resources for those who already work with children so that they can provide support to children and families at the earliest opportunity.
“I would encourage people to take part in the consultation and have their say on Suffolk’s proposal of an integrated speech, language and communications model.”
Lisa Nobes, Chief Nursing Officer for the NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, said:
“I would urge the parents and carers of children and young people in Suffolk to look at our proposed new model of services and let us know what they think.
“The model has been co-produced with Suffolk Parent Carer Network and we hope that by involving people with real lived experience of these services as they are now we have been able to address some of the shortcomings in provision that are evident to everyone.
“I am confident that the new model will provide us services that are far more suited and responsive to the needs of our children and young people with special speech, language and communication needs.”