MPs Ed Davey and Zac Goldsmith lend support to Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ Giving Voice campaign.
MPs Ed Davey and Zac Goldsmith lend support to Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ Giving Voice campaign.
12 July 2011

Yesterday (Monday 11 July 2011) at community healthcare provider Your Healthcare, MPs Ed Davey and Zac Goldsmith met a range of local service users, their parents and their carers who told them how the service has transformed their lives.

The MPs highlighted the importance of the speech and language service and demonstrated the use of picture cards as part of the Giving Voice initiative.

Ed Davey, MP for Kingston & Surbiton, also used the occasion, by talking about the problems experienced by his family in accessing services for his son, to demonstrate the need for more speech and language therapists in Kingston.

Speaking to an audience which included members of Your Healthcare’s team of speech and language therapists, he said: “I know how hard you work and how dedicated you are and I thank Your Healthcare. I am also the father of a young boy of 3½ who cannot speak and we are trying to access services for him. He cannot say a word – we have taught him some Makaton signs but his hands are a little bit wobbly.

“We have been trying to get speech and language services but he is not entitled to them because he is no longer choking on his food and drink.” Mr Davey went on to say that there were about 100 pre-school children in Kingston who were in a similar position and commented on a video that Your Healthcare has made featuring service users and their parents.

“As we heard on your video, early intervention is key…but we just do not have enough of you [therapists]”, he said.

Addressing guests, who included Kingston’s Deputy Mayor Cllr Geoff Austin, local councillors and representatives from the Royal Borough of Kingston, the Chair of the British Stammering Association Leys Geddes and the RCSLT’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs Derek Munn, Mr Davey said that there was going to be a review of speech and language provision in the borough, but he could not see that the review could conclude anything other than the fact that more therapists were needed. The review would not feed into the commissioning process until next April, he added, calling the wait “unacceptable, in my view.”

Calling for more investment in the service he said: “This may be an era of tight resources... let’s have that review, but let’s not wait for those children who need it. How can we expect children to learn if they cannot communicate?”

Mr Davey and Mr Goldsmith pledged to work together to support speech and language provision in Kingston.

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, said: “This is about real lives – it’s also about the crude figures at a time when there is a battle for funds. It is easy to say that this [speech and language therapy] is fluffy and indulgent, but it is absolutely central, we have to invest in people’s ability to communicate. Sixty per cent of young offenders have severe communication difficulties, for example – I would just urge people to bear in mind how important this service is.”

The Giving Voice campaign aims to increase understanding of the role of speech and language therapy and to show how tackling communication and swallowing problems reduces avoidable costs and waste in the NHS, local authorities, the criminal justice system and the wider economy.

Your Healthcare caters for around 2000 speech and language therapy service users in the borough of Kingston and some people with learning disabilities in Richmond.  These range from schoolchildren with stammering and other speech, language, communication and or swallowing difficulties needs, to stroke survivors, people with learning disabilities or swallowing problems. Services to children in mainstream schools are jointly commissioned by health and education and delivered in partnership with the Royal Borough of Kingston.

Guests at the event included students from Dysart School who helped to run a ‘café’ using communication cards, and local mother Maggie Fairweather who also featured in the Your Healthcare film, along with her twin sons Ben and Oliver. The six-year olds  were born with a condition called sub-mucous cleft palate which gave them significant speech problems.

Mrs Fairweather, who was told by Great Ormond Street Hospital that one of her sons might have a severe speech disability for the rest of his life, said his condition really upset him at school where he felt he stood out. “He felt very sad about it. It challenged his view of himself and made him self-conscious,” she reveals in the film.

After intensive therapy with both the Michael Palin Centre and with Your Healthcare therapists working in their school, both boys have made a dramatic improvement. “Now they do not stand out in that way any more among their peers,” said Mrs Fairweather. “In fact, they stand out as articulate little boys. The message is that early intervention really is the key – this has changed my boys’ lives completely.”

Catherine Bennett, Head of Speech & Language Therapy at Your Healthcare said: “The King’s Speech shone a welcome spotlight on some aspects of the service but the full range of benefits to society is so much more. Being part of the recently formed ‘ Your Healthcare’ Community Interest Company has brought real potential  for further investment in Speech & Language Therapy in Kingston;  already newly formed partnerships have  the ability to transform lives for individuals as well as to save millions in the long run.”

Siobhan Clarke, MD of Your Healthcare said: “We are a local organisation that has its roots in this community; shaping the delivery of high quality services for local people is what we are about. Conceiving and planning our services in partnership with children and young people, and adults of all ages alongside the special people in their lives enables us to achieve better results.  We will always be ambitious in the delivery of our services.

“Of course we are subject to financial constraints like everybody else in the NHS but we can make the most of the resources we have by collaborative working with like-minded partners.” 


Notes to Editors:

* 2.5 million people in the UK have speech, language or communication needs, including: 10% of all children, more than half of children in deprived areas, nearly two-thirds of young offenders, one in three stroke survivors, 1.3 million people with a learning disability

Your Healthcare CIC, (YHC) the former provider arm of NHS Kingston, is a not-for-profit social enterprise which launched on 1 August 2010. We provide 23 distinct community healthcare services for the NHS (including District Nursing, Health Visiting, School Nursing, rehabilitation, Learning Disability services, specialist therapies like physiotherapy, podiatry, diabetes care, HIV services and continence care)  to a Kingston-registered GP community of 187,000 people and to people in Richmond with a learning disability. We also provide business support services for a range of internal and external clients. More details about YHC in the separate Pack available at the event or on request.

Media enquiries/ photo requests: Madeleine Pallas, Your Healthcare: 020 8339 8138/ 07973 326 422 or email

Photos include: MP Ed Davey and MP Zac Goldsmith at the event with local service users, using the communication cards to ask for a cup of coffee

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