Thankfully for many of us Covid is a distant memory – something which seems somehow a very long time ago. Others, such as those with continuing and lingering ill-effects from catching the disease, are still very much living with the consequences.
There are significant numbers of others however, who are living with the indirect consequences of the pandemic. These are the children whose life chances have been severely compromised by the missed opportunities when schools closed and parents were faced with the huge challenge of home-educating their children.
Many were already identified as having speech, language and communication needs (SLCN): struggling to access scare therapy services and over-stretched special needs support. Many, many others were at risk of falling behind and the mass closures were more than enough to push them into the cause for concern category.
The impact of SLCN on access to the curriculum is well-documented. What is possibly less well-known however, is that these children don’t just ‘grow out of it’. One only has to look at the increase in demand from secondary schools and – for the first time – Soundswell is providing a service to a further education college in Birmingham.
The post-covid landscape is bleak for children and young people with SLCN. Services were under tremendous pressure before: now they are almost unable to function. Despite the importance of early intervention, waiting lists are so long that a pre-school child is quite likely to be well underway in Reception (or, sometimes into year 1) before being seen by a therapist.
This is no-body’s fault. Since 2014/15, the numbers of children needing help has risen by 42%. Neither funding nor numbers of therapists has kept up.
The Royal College of speech and language therapists (RCSLT) continues to produce information and advocate in the right quarters. That said, this is a joint and collective responsibility.
We need our colleagues in Education to continue to speak out on behalf of all those children whose social, educational and economic future is severely compromised.
Future blogs will talk about:
- RCSLT’s contribution to the Covid enquiry
- ‘Putting the child and family at the centre’: what is happening on the ground in Birmingham in terms of embryonic joined-up thinking between the public and private sector
Watch this space….