Parents forced to pay up to £5,500 for private speech and language therapy due to health service pressure
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There is not enough provision in Norfolk to deal with the number of children who need speech and language therapy (SLT).
That was the conclusion reached by an independent panel of experts tasked with looking into SLT in the county, after reports of long waiting times and not enough sessions being on offer.
Their report, which will be presented to Norfolk County Council's Heath Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, found the current set up was 'ambitious' and there were problems with funding and resources.
They found the 'current staffing model is over-reliant on support staff' and 'as a whole system, there is not sufficient resource to provide the desired level of provision to children and young people with speech, language and communication needs in Norfolk'.
The view was echoed by Family Voices Norfolk, a charity which represents more than 770 families with children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
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A report prepared by the charity said lots of parents were being forced to pay for private SLT. It said: 'The whole system concerning SLT is completely flawed.'
And although praise was given to individual therapists, who were deemed 'compassionate and understanding', parents were 'paying privately for SLT services in Norfolk as they are unable to access the services that their child requires and do not have confidence that such a service will become available.'
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Maxine Webb, from Norfolk charity SENsational Families, said the families they support had received similar reports, and they had run their own survey into SLT services.
She said: 'In our survey people were saying they were paying a minimum of £200 and the maximum was £5,500.'
She added: 'What we want is something that has the child's needs at the heart of it.'
Penny Carpenter, chair of the children's services committee at Norfolk County Council, said 'We know how important this service is to children and families and recognise the importance of getting it right so that is why we commissioned this review, with health partners. We're grateful for the responses we've received and will now look at them in further detail so that we can ensure that children can get the very best service.'