Lords pass Speech and Language Therapy Amendment
During the recent Report stage debate, the House of Lords amended the Children and Families Bill to say that speech and language therapy should be treated as special educational provision if it ‘educates or trains’ children. This means that when the new SEN system is introduced from September 2014, speech and language therapy in EHC Plans (the replacement for statements) should be classified as special educational provision. This maintains the current legal position.
Why is it so important for speech and language therapy to be special educational provision?
It means that if the health service cannot or will not provide the speech and language therapy the child needs, the local education authority must arrange it. Many parents find that this is the only way to access the speech and language therapy their children need. For more information about the law on speech and language therapy, see our booklet Accessing speech and language therapy for your child: A guide to the law.
The Government’s Commitment
The minister, Baroness Northover, confirmed it was the Government’s intention that speech and language therapy should, in most cases, continue to be categorised as special educational provision. She said in the debate,
‘In our view, a local authority and, where relevant, a tribunal, in considering whether healthcare provision or social care provision was to be treated as special educational provision, would ask themselves whether it was educational, taking the approach set out in the current SEN code of practice in respect of speech and language therapy. We have carried this into the new landscape of the Bill in relation to education and training. We believe that our wording is expressed a little more simply than the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and that it is consistent with the present approach.’ The full debate can be read in Hansard.
In certain situations, ministerial statements can be submitted as valid evidence to courts of law or tribunals, so it is extremely helpful that the minister spelled out the Government’s position in parliament.
A triumph for parents
This successful outcome marks the culmination of a sustained campaign led by Afasic, working together with our partners: The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, The Communication Trust, IPSEA and SEC (The Special Education Consortium). Most of all, though, it is a triumph for all those parents who contacted their MPs and pressed for clarity on this important issue.
Working together we can make a difference!