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Petition Increase investment in Speech and Language Therapy.

We want the Government to increase investment in speech and language therapy so people of all ages - babies, children and young people, and adults - with communication and/or swallowing needs can get the support they and their families need.

More details

Thousands of people across the country with communication and/or swallowing needs require timely access to speech and language therapy.

But for too long, there has not been enough funding for speech and language therapy services. Nor has the current and future speech and language therapy workforce been properly planned for.

We are calling on the Government to increase investment in speech and language therapy, so people can get the support they and their families need.

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Government responded

This response was given on 18 April 2024

This government has increased investment in the NHS since 2019 in real terms. Systems are developing plans to reduce waits and we are committed to growing the Speech and Language Therapy workforce.

We recognise the impact that long waits to access speech and language therapy can have on the individual, their families and carers. Demand has been rising for speech and language therapies. The most recent data shows, as of February 2024, 72,661 children and 20,648 adults were waiting for Speech and Language Therapy.

Addressing waiting times for community health services, including Speech and Language Therapy, is a priority for the NHS and this Government. Published on 27 March 2024, the NHS England 2024/25 priorities and operational planning guidance asked local systems to develop a comprehensive plan by June 2024 to reduce the overall waiting times for community services. This includes reducing waits over 52 weeks for children’s community services. NHS England will work with Integrated Care Boards and providers of these services to set a specific ambition and improve data capture. NHS England is also working to understand what more can be done to reduce waits for Speech and Language Therapy.

NHS England continues to monitor community services’ waiting lists. Data is published monthly on NHS England’s website: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/community-health-services-waiting-lists/

Workforce is cited as a limiting factor in delivering additional speech and language therapy. The number of therapists working in the NHS in England has increased in recent years, but we recognise the need to improve access to therapies, including Speech and Language Therapies. That is why we are undertaking the biggest nursing, midwifery, and Allied Health Professional recruitment drive in decades. This includes the recruitment of Speech and Language Therapists. The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan sets out an ambition to increase Allied Health Professional training places by 25% to over 18,800 by 2031/32. NHS England has committed to refreshing the modelling that underpins the Long Term Workforce Plan every two years or in line with fiscal events.

Since September 2020, all eligible nursing, midwifery, and allied health profession students have received a non-repayable training grant of a minimum of £5,000 per academic year.

We are working closely with the Department for Education (DfE) to ensure that children and young people with Special Educational Need and Disabilities (SEND) receive the right support, in the right place, at the right time. We are working together to implement the SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan, which was published on 2 March 2023. This sets out the government’s mission to establish a single national system that delivers for every child and young person with SEND and in alternative provision so that they enjoy their childhood, achieve good outcomes, and are well prepared for adulthood and employment.

We are taking a joint approach to SEND workforce planning in recognition of the demand for specialist support and have established a steering group to oversee this work aiming to complete it by 2025. To establish the evidence base, we published a research specification paper on 9 January 2024, ‘Demand for therapists for children and young people with SEND’, through the National Institute for Health and Care Research, to help understand the gaps between the supply of therapies and the demand for therapy in children and young people with SEND.

We will improve access to Speech and Language Therapy by including the ‘Early Language and Support for Every Child’ (ELSEC) pathfinder project within DfE’s £70 million Change Programme in partnership with NHS England. This programme will fund innovative workforce models to identify and support children and young people with speech, language and communication needs at an early stage. Furthermore, DHSC, DfE and NHS England have launched ‘Partnerships for Inclusion of Neurodiversity in Schools’ (PINS), with £13 million of funding to test ideas that will improve access to specialist support in mainstream primary schools.

We are investing £164.9 billion a year by the end of this Parliament into the NHS. Compared to 2019-20, that is an increase of 13% in real terms. Across England, community health services are locally commissioned to enable systems to best meet the needs of their communities. NHS England is responsible for determining allocations of financial resources to ICBs from April 2023. The allocations process uses a statistical formula to make geographic distribution of financial resources fair and objective, so that it more clearly reflects local healthcare need and helps to reduce health inequalities. This process is independent of Government, and NHS England takes advice on the underlying formula from the independent Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation. NHS England is continuing to work with ICBs to develop their financial plans for 2024/25.

This Government is committed to cutting waiting lists and growing the workforce to help people and their families get the support they need.

Department of Health and Social Care

At 100,000 signatures...

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Debate on petition about speech and language therapy

We previously told you that this petition would be debated on 1 July.

There will now be a General Election on 4 July. This means that the debate on this petition can no longer go ahead because all Parliamentary business will stop ahead of the election.

After the election, the new House of Commons will appoint new committees. It will be up to the new Petitions Committee to decide whether to schedule a new debate on this petition.

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We will let you know if a new Committee decides to schedule a new debate on this petition.

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