The current therapies crisis

About the importance of therapies

This blog entry is long time overdue… at least for us, as one of the main reasons we started sendPACT was the astonishing lack of therapies for children, specially early years and the lack of access to adequate early intervention.

The article we are quoting below explains how CAMHS have to discharge children when they still need the service, to avoid fines to their department for waiting lists. To reduce waiting list, children need to be discharged so therapist can take on other children and thus, reducing the waiting list.

“Just like other areas of the NHS, Camhs is fined if children are on the waiting list for too long. As a consequence, children with complex and serious mental health problems are meant to be “sorted” in just six sessions. This means that pressure is put on therapists to push problems back on schools in order to avoid fines that they can’t afford to pay. We are not even treading water, we are sinking under the weight of referrals.”

This also stands for any kind of NHS based interventions such is paediatricians, Speech and Language Therapy (SLT), Occupational therapy (OT), Physiotherapy, Dieticians… The service is either inadequate or professionals will discharge your child (after a lot of fighting to be referred as being referred to any service is a struggle in itself) at the least opportunity. Nonverbal children are “lucky” to received 6 SLT’s sessions a year (as explained in the article) of “one to one” therapy with an actual therapist. No need to say how important is this therapy for these children, still they have no meaningful access to it.

The same goes to Occupational therapy, only until recently, there was no paediatric OT in Haringey. Professionals therapists not only practice therapy with our children, they are also responsible to asses our children’s development (as many of them are discharged from paediatrics in the moment they are diagnosed with autism, for example, somebody should be checking these children’s development) and, depending on their progress or lack of it, changing strategies and therapies approach to hep better the child. Many of our children will be depended on these services for most of their Childhood and others, for all their lives.

Officials at the local authority want to convince us that teachers and teacher assistants (TAs) can do therapy with our children and, whenever anybody asks, they confidently say children are receiving these therapies “at school”, meaning in the majority of times, that teachers and TAs are practising these therapies with children… and despite that we can totally agree that teachers and parents should support therapies strategies at home and school, we would like to ask a question: can a teacher or TAs learn in some sessions everything that a therapist has spent years of university studying? They can certainly learn individual strategies for individual children, but those strategies are not meant to be in place “forever”, in fact, those strategies will progress, evolved and change depending of the child progress or lack of. How a teacher or TA could do such job? Could a paediatrician or a surgeon train non-medical staff to substitute them in their work? To suggest that Teachers, TAs or other staff can substitute a health professional is preposterous and an insult to SEND children and their parents’ intelligence.

Children’s therapies services are commissioned by the council’s CCG, therefore, council responsibility. If we were to believe LA officials and our children “don’t need that much therapy” why when going to court, judges allocate more therapy for children based on professionals’ evidence? Are we saying that those professionals and the tribunal system are wrong? And, especially when we are well aware of economic restrictions within the council, how can parents blindly trust council professionals in regard to their children’s future, when they are seem to be always fighting so hard to deny SEND children access to services, even resourcing going to court to avoid to give that child support?

Finally, we would like to create awareness about the repercussions of lack of therapy for SEND children. Therapies such as SLT and OT helps children to be more independent therefore, needing less support in the future. Currently the adult social care services are overloaded and is one of the costliest items in the general council budget. Active and meaningful therapy support for children may see pricy now and limiting services can look as a good saving point, but sadly, these are not real saving as it’s money that is “borrowed” from the future. The savings of today will multiplied the expenses of tomorrow by many numbers, when, in less than ten years’ time, all these children’s that have been systematically neglected, reach adulthood and need 24/7 round the clock care with, maybe, even needing two support workers at the majority of times with them. This could have been avoided in the most majority of cases if, when young, these adults would have received the support to enable them to reach levels of independence. It’s is proved now that many SEND children, if adequately supported, can have productive lives where they can contribute to society with their work in many fields… we are not only limiting them, but also condemning them to a live of dependency of the establishment which will be very costly to local governments.

Note: This blog was originally written to a specific panel for autism but applies to all SEND children. Therefore, we have edited all the word with “autism” and “autistics” for SEND so we ensure everybody’s inclusion in this piece.

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