Judge orders speech and language therapy “forthwith” – 2013vol2#21

During a care order review the judge directed speech and language therapy sessions forthwith for a child, by whatever means necessary, within the HSE provision or otherwise.

The child’s need for speech and language therapy had been made known by a clinical psychologist two years previously, the court heard. An assessment which confirmed he needed to be in a special school resulted in a recent transfer to one. The HSE solicitor said the move to a new school last month had partly resulted in the delay of the young boy accessing the speech and language therapy.

The GAL solicitor said: “Therapeutically speech and language is important for the child. This is a review and you’re not telling me when he will start.” The HSE solicitor said the school would now provide it, however there was a waiting list for that service in the school which he had had to join. She did not know how long it would take or where he was on the waiting list. “Our information is that he should get it within a few months of referral and he was referred [last month],” she said.

The judge said she would have to have it back before the court. The GAL solicitor said: “At this juncture we just want the service provided. I would be looking at a direction that it would be provided privately” immediately, and they would be seeking a home-based programme.

The solicitor for the HSE said that every effort has been made by the social work department to ensure they met the child’s needs, and this service was the last piece of the jigsaw.

The social worker told the court that the child was transferred onto the school waiting list from the community list, they felt his speech and language needs were a priority and they would continue to liaise with the relevant person regarding where he was on the list.

The solicitor for the father read from a HSE report stating that the child should get speech therapy privately if it was not available, and asked why had he not received it. The social worker said it was because he had transferred into the new school.

The solicitor for the father said the child’s development was impaired while in the care of the HSE because he was not getting the therapy he needed. The social worker acknowledged he needed immediate speech and language therapy. She told the GAL solicitor
that the community speech and language therapy group which worked from within the school had said they could not indicate how long the child would have to wait.

The judge said she was concerned about the speech and language deficit. “Does it not make more sense for him to have it privately at this stage and stopping when it comes from the school?” She wanted to know what could be done for the child now within the social work department. The judge said: “there are a host of private therapists” and a speech and language assessor had said he needed therapy.

The social worker said when a child moved area or school they got put back on a waiting list but that speech and language was also in the remit of the HSE.

The judge said if there was a waiting list in Galway and a child moved to Dublin, surely he would not move to the end of the Dublin list. The social worker was not sure.

“In your professional opinion as a social worker is it essential that he gets the speech and language therapy now?” asked the judge. “Yes”. “So have you made an application?” asked the judge. “No, I have not.” “Why?” “I spoke to [the speech and language community therapists] last week and have not discussed it with my team leader.” She said she would put in an application for funding, and it would go up to the principal social worker.

“The reality here is that the speech and language review is outstanding,” said the judge.
The GAL told the court that with regards to the necessity of the speech and language therapy: “I don’t think that there can be any more delay, if his communication doesn’t improve there will be difficulties ahead, particularly during adolescence.”

She felt a private therapy placement was needed. The boy was growing up and could not hold an argument with a younger brother. The foster parents needed a home-based programme. In the interim the pressures could be put on the public service to begin his therapy.

The judge made a direction on her own motion “under section 47 to procure home-based speech and language therapy sessions as identified in the report of the clinical psychologist … for the child without further delay, forthwith. By whatever means necessary, within their own HSE provision or otherwise, due to the GAL’s evidence, the social worker’s evidence and the assessor’s report.”