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Outrage at delays for therapy

29 March, 2006

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children and Young People, Sue Ramsey MLA has said that it is totally unacceptable that thousands of children and young people are still waiting for speech and language therapy 12 months after the Commissioner for Children and Young People warned that more needed to be done.

Ms Ramsey said:

"It makes for stark reading when 2,055 children and young people are still waiting to be assessed for speech and language therapy and that 3,402 who have been assessed as requiring the therapy are still waiting for it to start.

"The fact that there has been little progress in the 12 months since the Children's Commissioner first raised this problem reflects badly on the commitment of British direct rule ministers to ensuring the services for our children and young people are prioritised.

"Given that the direct rule cuts currently being forced through the Education Library Boards will also have an impact on statementing and particularly on the provision of resources to support special educational needs this lack of commitment gives rise to very serious concern.

"The continuing postcode lottery is also a huge concern. There should be equal access to services. While there has been some progress in waiting times between assessment and the start of therapy the fact is that the maximum waiting time 12 months ago was 16 months, yet this year the corresponding figure is 24 months for the Homefirst Trust, an increase of 8 months.

"It is also clear that the big problems are to do with resources and the lack of speech and language therapists, with 11 of 14 Trusts claiming this is affecting them. It is clear that specific resources are required to finance Speech and Language Therapy. I will be writing to the Children's Minster Jeff Rooker demanding urgent action." ENDS

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