Postcode lottery in specialist stammering services across the UK
Only 45% of health providers across the UK offer specialist stammering services, according to a report released by the Charity, Action for Stammering Children. This was investigated by sending out Freedom of Information Request (FOIs) to healthcare providers and commissioners across the UK.
Based on the information collected, the report, titled ‘Suffering in Silence: Access to specialist services for children who stammer’, found that there is uneven access to specialist provision across the UK. The services were ranked according to level of provision where the highest ranked was classed as having access to a specialist stammering service centre, while the lowest ranked was classed as only having access to a generalist speech and language therapist as part of the wider service. The key finding was that over half of local authorities or Health Boards in England, Scotland and Wales do not offer specialist stammering services.
The Charity also collected comments from parents of children who stammer and from people who stammer themselves. A young person who stammered, from Durham, said:
“I had my therapist from a young age and saw her every Thursday for 14 years of my life. She gave me confidence in my speech and helped me to develop in areas where I wasn’t comfortable in and I continued to have the same therapist for those 14 years which made it easier because she understood me.”
Whereas, in certain areas of the country, where there were fewer services available, there were comments reflecting this. A parent from Hertfordshire commented that:
“I was told there was a 10 month wait for a SLT [Speech and Language Therapist] appointment unless I was prepared to go private. That is not acceptable when your child is no longer talking due to his stammer and is also beginning to show signs of anger outbursts due to frustration. I managed to get him seen earlier but only because I rang everyday to see if they had any cancellations.”
The report sets out five policy recommendations:
- Local access to a specialist stammering service for every child who stammers across England, Scotland and Wales
- Early intervention should be prioritised
- A national awareness raising campaign
- Training for education and healthcare professionals
- Health and Education need to work more closely together
Chief executive Steven Gauge said “Our research has shown that there is a postcode lottery in the level of support that children who stammer receive. Where a child happens to live should not determine whether they are given the opportunity to access the specialist support that can help to offset the adverse outcomes that can be associated with stammering.”
Welcoming the report, chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Kamini Gadhok MBE, says: “It adds further weight to our concerns that many children with stammering and other communication difficulties can’t access the support they need. Our own survey found that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of specialist speech and language therapy roles in the last 10 years. Investing in speech and language therapy services can support these children and young people to fulfil their potential, leading to improved mental health and employment.”
Download and read the report below: