Despair of parents struggling with overstretched services for disabled children

Parents who have children with special needs and disabilities are struggling to access overstretched services, leaving them in despair.

By Lucy Ashton
Tuesday, 21 May, 2019, 10:45

One parent has taken out loans to pay for private treatment, one child is on a waiting list of 65 weeks while another child gets just three hours’ speech therapy a year.

Sheffield Parent Carer Forum found 66 per cent of parents said there were services their child needed but was not currently getting.

It surveyed more than 700 parents of children and young people, aged up to 25, with special educational needs or disabilities.

One parent said: “We have nothing – no support. We pay for specialist tuition so my daughter can understand and actually participate in her class and psychotherapy once a week as we fear she will have a mental breakdown or worse, suicide. We have had to take out loans to pay for the above which comes to approximately £100 per week.”

Another parent said: “When my daughter was struggling a few years ago I was desperate and couldn’t get through to the Autism Team. This was a very hard time.”

A parent revealed: “Speech therapy provision for my child, who is four years old and non-verbal, is three hours a year.”

And another said there was a 65-week waiting list at Child and Adolescent Mental HealthServices for children needing cognitive behavioural therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder.

The services most frequently reported as missing were CAMHS and mental health support, social care services, speech and language therapy, support in education and occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

The Forum has published a report called the State of Sheffield which says: “In 2014, parents highlighted significant capacity issues in a number of key services accessed by children with SEND.

“In 2019, all of these services had seen a deterioration in capacity ratings.

“For the lowest-performing services in 2014 – educational psychology, the autism team and speech and language therapy – capacity ratings had decreased even further in 2019. Several other services seem to be heading in the same direction.

“The biggest falls in capacity ratings were recorded for CAMHS, the Ryegate Children’s Centre, the Vision Support Service and the Becton Outreach Team.”

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The percentage of parents who said their child was getting “too little” input from these services:

91 per cent – Autism Education Service

90 per cent – Educational Psychology

89 per cent – SENDSARS (the council’s SEN team)

80 per cent – CAMHS

78 per cent – Speech and Language Therapy

The report says quality ratings also fell for most of the services it looked at.

It adds: “This was particularly pronounced for education support services, where the percentage of respondents who rated them as good or very good had fallen across the board, by around 30 per cent for most services.

“The picture for health services was more varied. Whilst speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy had seen an improvement in quality ratings, other services – like school nursing, health visiting and particularly CAMHS – had seen a sharp decline.”

The full report can be read here

www.sheffieldparentcarerforum.org.uk/about/publications