I have been asked several times over the last year if now is really the right time to be running a major awareness raising campaign. With cuts to services rife and ongoing confusion on health and education structures some have asked if it is fair to raise awareness of speech, langauge and communication needs (SLCN) when there may be a dearth of local services to refer families to.
The current risk to service provision concerns the Trust and our members greatly. Not only do we back RCSLT’s Giving Voice Campaign, the private and public lobbying from the voluntary sector locally and nationally is one of the best defences against cuts.
But the idea of not running Hello just because there are cuts to provision is not something we could entertain. Part of the reason that it is so easy to cut SEN services is because, unless you are a parent of a child with a specific language impairment, the general public just don’t get it. I know I am such a parent.
More importantly though to suggest that we should not try everything we can to identify a child’s SLCN because we would be raising expectations of services that might not be there is, to my mind, not fulfilling our obligation to children. Firstly families should rightly expect a service and should be supported to agitate for same. Secondly there are many things that parents and the universal workforce can do to support both typical communication development and to help a child with SLCN that can be put into place immediately. This does not negate the need for specialist help for those that need it but rather recognises that provision is the sum of input from many professionals.
Most importantly the early identification of needs is one of the single most important aspects in mitigating the impact of SLCN and regardless of service provision the ‘naming’ of a problem that many parents know is there but can’t quite put their finger on is liberating – even if it is the start of a long and sometimes difficult journey.
So yes – now is the right time to raise awareness, to make sure families are not alone and to ensure the public know why communication matters. And this year with Hello, and next year and the year after, and until the job is done, the Trust will be making sure that no child with SLCN feels alone.