A new report by the Children’s Commissioner for England has revealed that spending on speech and language therapy for children in need of speech and language therapy services (SLT) has fallen throughout the country. The report claims that “children in need are subject to a postcode [zipcode] lottery, creating huge disparities across England of children who are receiving proper provisions.” The report is the first of its kind, revealing data to show how much money local areas spend on SLT services.
According to the report, £166m ($211 million) was spent by
councils and clinical commissioning groups on SLT services in 2018/29, with £16.35
($20) spent on each child in the top 25% of areas and 58p ($0.78) spent on each
child in the bottom 25% of areas.
Taking into account inflation and population growth, only
23% of areas saw a real terms increase in spend per child while 57% of areas
saw a reduction. In addition, only 50% of areas reported that health and local
authorities were jointly commissioning services, even though they are expected
to do so for children with identified special educational needs. Overall, the
majority of spending came from health, with clinical commissioning groups
accounting for 69% of the total reported spent.
The report notes, that though the country has had ambitions
to reduce the word gap in early years with its Social Mobility Action Plan, it
appears that children with speech, language and communication needs are still
not being prioritized. According to the latest Early Years Foundation Stage
Profile, 114, 822 children are not reaching the expected development levels in
communication, and 193,971 children in primary schools have identified speech,
language, and communication needs. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are
more likely to experience these problems, with 23% of five-year olds eligible
for free school meals not meeting the expected levels in speech, language and
communication, compared to 13% of those not eligible for free school
The report claims, “Although there is clearly a high level
of need, support for these children—including provision of high-quality speech and language
therapy, which is
known to be
a crucial intervention— is not
currently enough of a priority.
Professionals say the children they work with are either having to wait too
long to get help, or are not getting help at all. Recent research has found
that about a third of children have to wait over a year to get speech and
language therapy. “