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Govt ends speech therapy contract: Does this mean more demand for locums?

Monday 12th March 2018
The Department for Education will no longer be funding a specialist contractor for speech, language and communication needs, it has been revealed. Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via iStock
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Locum speech and language therapists in the UK may find themselves in higher demand in the future, as it has been announced that the government will no longer be funding the specialist contract for speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

The Department for Education (DfE) has supported this contract for the past ten years, but has revealed that it will no longer be doing so from April 1st 2018.

A government contract entitled 'Strategic Support to the Workforce in Mainstream and Special Schools' is set to come into force on this date and does not include any mention of funding for SLCN.

This therefore indicates that funding in this area will be cut significantly, much to the disappointment of charities in the field.

Mainstream and special schools, charities and other support groups will still require the expertise of qualified speech and language therapists. However, and it looks as though they will have to put more funding towards access to these professionals themselves, potentially creating more demand for locum therapists as budget allocations are ironed out.

If this is not the case, the development of some 1.4 million children and young people could be at risk, charity The Communication Trust has warned.

Octavia Holland, director at the charity, explained that demand for access to specialist speech, language and communication therapy has increased by more than 20 per cent over the last 12 months alone, meaning funding for therapists is currently more important than ever.

She stated: "The DfE's plans to cut funding for speech, language and communication needs are shockingly short-sighted."

Meanwhile, speech and language therapist Sarah Winstanley added: "More funding is needed, not less."

A petition has been set up calling on the DfE to reverse its decision, attracting over 28,000 signatures within a matter of days. While the outcome of this remains to be seen, it is clear that the support of specially trained speech and language therapists is essential to help young people develop communication skills so they don't fall behind their peers both socially and academically.

Written by Martin Lambert

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