30 Mar 2006

THOUSANDS of children and young people are waiting for speech and language therapy a year after the office of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) warned more needed to be done.

2,055 children and young people are still waiting to be assessed for speech and language therapy, and 3,402 who have been assessed as needing the therapy are waiting for the therapy to start.

The figures were released by NICCY at a joint conference with the Royal College for Speech and Language Therapists in Cookstown today, which celebrated the work of therapists, outlined good practice and ways of working together in a better way.

“We are very concerned on behalf of children and young people that at a time when we are celebrating the good work of speech and language therapists our research is showing thousands are still waiting to access the therapy,” said Barney McNeany, Acting Commissioner at NICCY.

“Quite simply it appears that the needs of many children and young people with a disability are not being met.”

Mr McNeany said while some limited progress had been made, it was clearly not enough, as the postcode lottery the commissioner’s office highlighted last year still exists.

“There are trust areas where children can wait two-and-a-half years from referral to therapy – that means the child may wait from starting primary school to year three to receive support.”

He went on to say that we in NICCY believe the Government will be as concerned as we are and will respond positively to make sure the shocking figures in today’s report are addressed.

“On a day when we hear so much about the good work of therapists; when it is clear to us from the parents who speak to us that they value the therapy their children receive; we are looking forward to significant announcements from Government.”

Notes for Editors

  • You can view a copy of the Executive Summary of NICCY’s Follow-up Review 2005/2006 on Speech and Language Therapy Services for Children and Young People here
  • You can also view the full version of the Review here
  • You can view Barney McNeany's speech here
  • You can view Lord Rooker's speech here
  • You can view the breakout group action list from the conference here
  • You can view the evaluation from the conference here
  • You can view the final outcomes and next steps here