Stammerers share experiences of life changing Sheffield service amid closure

Stammerers shared their experiences of using a life changing service in Sheffield that is due to close to adults next year.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 7:00 am

Kirsten Howells, of Stamma, read out the comments during a recent Sheffield Council adult social care scrutiny committee meeting to provide an insight into the need for the service for adults and the potential impact of the loss of the service.

She said Stamma received a number of complaints about Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust’s plans to close its dysfluency and cleft lip and palate service to adults from January 2022.

The Trust said it was doing this to focus on young patients after finding that demand was outstripping capacity.

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One of the comments was made by someone who was rejected by the service in April when it temporarily closed.

They said: “I’m an NHS nurse but I’ve always stayed at a Band 5 grade because I don’t feel able to perform well in interviews because of my stammering so I just don’t put myself forward for promotion.”

A parent of a young person who has received support by the service said: “Think how hard it must be to face an English oral exam or a modern foreign language exam or any assessment that requires verbal responses if you stammer.

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Kirsten Howells of Stamma

“It wouldn’t be right to restrict subject choices or avoid those exams altogether because of speech. What about applications for college, apprenticeships or work placements? All of these require interviews in person, over the phone or through video conferencing. These activities are challenging for all young people but are so much more difficult if you have speech difficulty.

“What if the very person who could help you prepare for these situations, with whom you have built up trust and work with and they have been exposed to the difficulties you experience in daily life is suddenly no longer allowed to support you.”

An adult service user said: “Being a doctor was always a dream of mine and the support I received at the stammering service helped me tremendously by teaching me how to live with my stammer. I’m now a qualified doctor who doesn’t shy away from how he speaks.”

Another adult who uses the service said: “I requested to be referred to speech and language therapy in my early twenties. I was very unhappy and suicidal, my speech was something I could see affecting me and my ability to live my life successfully. Looking back, therapy was a great experience for me. Before that I had never spoken about my speech difficulties, let alone been with others who also had the same experience. It was life changing to express something so private and hidden and to have that met, understood and supported.”

The Trust said it will consult with patients on the options going forward but it has already served notice to cease the service from January 14, 2022.

Ms Howells said: “Moving towards a consultation, that’s likely to unearth lots of similar feedback yet Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust is intending to close the service again in mid January, withdrawing that support.”