Fears raised children who require access to speech and language therapy could be ‘falling through the net’

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry. - Credit: Archant

Concerns have been raised that autistic children and children with Down's Syndrome in Norfolk are 'falling through the net' when it comes to accessing speech and language therapy (SLT).

Councillors along with representatives for parents and teachers of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) have challenged Norfolk County Council, which commissions SLT services for children in central and west Norfolk, to improve access to services, lower waiting times and increase staffing numbers across the service.

The concerns were put to the SLT service commissioners during a Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) meeting held at Norfolk County Council on Thursday, October 10.

During the course of the meeting, the committee heard from Danielle Tebo, from the SENsational Families Group, who said: "Autistic children can't access the service with communication issues... I'm pleased with some of the changes since the last HOSC but there's still far more that needs to be done for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and for children conditions that are life long."

Emma Corlett, a Labour Norfolk county councillor said, echoed Ms Tebo's concerns and that while it was positive to see changes in the service since it was last before the scrutiny committee, she still had concerns about certain groups' access to SLT support.

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Penny Carpenter, a Conservative Norfolk county councillor asked given the evidence whether "some young people were falling through the net" when it came to accessing SLT services.

In response to the comments, Michael Bateman, SEND and AP transformation lead at Norfolk County Council's children's services, referenced the work that had already been done to improve the service.

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He said some of the concerns addressed areas which were managed by other funding provisions and schools themselves: "I think the report [for this committee] is very clear about where the improvements need to be."

Clare Angell, senior commissioning manager for children, young people and maternity Norfolk and Waveney added: "We are still very much in a period of change."

As a result of the meeting the commissioning team were asked to return to the scrutiny committee in 2020 to provide an update on the how the SLT service had been improved.

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