Children in need of speech and language therapy face postcode lottery

The Study by the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, says that too many vulnerable young children are missing out on vital support in their earliest years, with far-reaching implications for their progress and life chances.It is the first time data has been brought together from councils and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who jointly commission SLT services, to show how much different regions spend.

While the top 25% of spending areas in England invest more than £16 per child, the lowest 25% spend just 58p or less. For children with an identified speech and language need, some areas spend £300 per pupil, compared with just £30 in others.

The commissioner said: “Those who fail to receive help are at greater risk of falling behind in education, or developing behavioural problems. There are far too many children who have ended up in youth custody who had speech and language problems at school.”

According to the report, entitled “We need to talk: access to speech and language therapy”, the total spend on SLT services for 2018-19 is estimated at £166m, equivalent to just over £10 per child. Only 23% of areas had a real-terms increase in spend per child, while 57% of areas saw a reduction.

Urban areas tend to spend more than rural areas. Local authority spend per child is highest in London, at just over £7 per pupil, with the south-east just behind at a little under £6. It is lowest in the east Midlands, which spends 34p, and the West Midlands (90p).