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Parents of children needing speech therapy resort to expensive private care over 'disappointing' service

PUBLISHED: 17:05 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:16 01 March 2019

Parents raised concerns over the region's speech and language therapy service at a meeting in County Hall. Picture: Neil Perry

Parents raised concerns over the region's speech and language therapy service at a meeting in County Hall. Picture: Neil Perry

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Parents have slammed health and council officials for long delays in getting speech therapy assessments for their children, with many resorting to private care instead.

Michael Bateman, head of SEN at Norfolk County CouncilMichael Bateman, head of SEN at Norfolk County Council

Mothers and fathers of children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) have found multiple problems with the speech and language service in Norfolk that are delivered by the East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) and the county council’s SEND service.

But officials have said they accepted the unmet needs and that more money is being invested in the service.

Members of Norfolk charity SENsational Families, which offers support to children with SEND, have criticised ECCH for discharging children with an autism spectrum diagnosis (ASD) immediately after assessment with no therapy, intervention or advice.

Parents claimed they were waiting so long for assessments that they have had to fork out hundreds of pounds to pay for a private therapist.

Danielle Tebo, 37, from Thetford, who is a mother of a nine-year-old boy with autism, said: “From a parents’ points of view, we are disappointed with the service.

“Without therapy [children] can’t access the curriculum, they can’t even play in the playground with their peers.”

Speaking at the county council’s health overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, ECCH deputy director of children’s services Louise Barrett said there were a number of children with ASD who were using the service, adding: “We see the needs of individual children, it’s not as black and white.”

Head of Norfolk’s education high needs service Michael Bateman said £500,000 was being invested in the service which could help to reduce long waiting times.

Parents have also said children with Down syndrome were either being discharged immediately or only offered a basic six‐-week course of therapy, after which they were discharged regardless of the progress made.

This has forced families to either seek re-referral or attempt to access speech and language through other means such as fighting for personal budgets through the local authority or through expensive private services.

A private paediatric speech and language therapist, who did not want to be named, said: “I have phone calls practically every day from parents begging me for therapy but I have to tell them I’m sorry, I’m full. 
“It’s ridiculous what families are having to give up to pay for private therapy.”

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