Speech, language and communication services suffer funding setback

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The Communication Trust (TCT) is drawing up plans to significantly scale back its work after March 2018 following a shock decision by the Department for Education (DfE) not to renew the specialist speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) contract that funds much of its activity.

In a message sent to friends, partners and supporters, TCT’s Director Octavia Holland expressed disappointment at the decision but said the Trust was ‘working hard to put in place plans for how we can maintain a core service beyond the end of March.’ She promised further updates ‘as the picture becomes clearer’.

Her message says:

Although the Department has indicated that it does prioritise SLCN, unfortunately there are no plans at this stage to provide funding for this specific area. The Department has indicated that it will consider maintaining some elements of TCT’s work, or provide future funding, but there is no certainty about the position at present.

 The Communication Trust is a coalition of over 50 not-for-profit organisations that works with children and young people in England to support their speech, language and communication. It was founded in 2007 by Afasic, BT, the Council for Disabled Children, and I CAN.

The DfE decision was greeted with shock and disbelief by many who work with TCT or use its services.

Kelly Bracken (@KellyBracken) tweeted:

Sad news from The Communication Trust… speech & language is such an important area for children and young people and this is going to have a huge, detrimental impact on thousands of them.

LuCID —The ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development — (@LuCiD_Centre) tweeted:

Alarming & disappointing news that the @educationgovuk has chosen NOT to continue funding the @Comm_nTrust. Speech, language and communication should be a priority and the Trust do absolutely sterling work. Just look at all their brilliant resources: https://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/resources/resources/ … #SLCN

Others described the move as ‘shocking’, ‘short-sighted’ and ‘perverse’ and urged a campaign to reverse the decision. The shock announcement highlights the perilous nature of not-for-profit organisations working within the SLCN sector.

Afasic Cymru has also posted a notice on its website announcing its closure from 31 March 2018 after 15 years of being based in Wales. Posted by its trustees it says they have with regret and great personal sadness ‘taken the difficult decision to close Afasic operations in Wales.’

The notice adds:

Closure will be phased in order that we meet the requirements of our current funders; the Cardiff office will close on 31 January 2018 & the North Wales office will close on 31 March 2018.

All staff have worked tirelessly on various projects across Wales; it has been my privilege to work with a committed, enthusiastic & passionate team of staff and whilst we are all working through a difficult phase I think it is important that we also take this time to celebrate the successes we have achieved in the 15 years Afasic has been based in Wales.

Afasic is predominantly a parent-led organisation offering support and information to parents and carers; in addition, we have worked collaboratively with professionals, organisations. policy makers, and agencies raising awareness of Speech, Language & Communication Needs (SLCN) and the very real impact they can have on a child’s (& their families) lives. Parents/carers are integral in supporting their children to reach their full potential and we recommend that they, together with their child are listened to, and worked with, when planning what additional support their child needs to thrive. Listening to, and collaborating with parents is an intrinsic part of any ‘evidence informed’ approach to services.

We leave behind a wealth of knowledge and experience for others to draw upon. We have produced a range of publications for parents/carers to better support their children at home and all are available as free downloads.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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