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Petition to protect Suffolk speech and language hubs reaches milestone

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 April 2019

Gemma Turner and her son Ryan who attended speech and language hubs during key stage two. Picture: GEMMA TURNER

Gemma Turner and her son Ryan who attended speech and language hubs during key stage two. Picture: GEMMA TURNER

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A petition to protect speech and language hubs across Suffolk has reached more than 1,000 signatures only a week after it was launched.

Cllr Jack Abbott says that the drop in places allocated shows there are not enough good schools in Suffolk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCllr Jack Abbott says that the drop in places allocated shows there are not enough good schools in Suffolk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The petition was started on April 12 after the Suffolk County Council started a consultation on plans to revamp services for children with speech, language and communication needs.

Under the proposed scheme the three existing speech and language units in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft would be scrapped.

Education leaders claim the new plan will provide more outreach services and enable schools to spot the signs of a communication issues earlier but there are concerns that with stretched budgets this may not happen.

Parents have been registering their opposition to the scheme by signing a petition launched by mum Gemma Turner aimed at keeping the hubs open.
Two years ago Gemma decided to move her son Ryan, a non speaking child, to Rushmere speech and language hub.

Having seen the benefits first hand she is determined to fight the closures.

She said: “My heart breaks for not only the children but the parents who are going through this tough time. We have to think about the mental health of our children who cannot express themselves in the same way as their peers.

“I am saddened for these children who are now in limbo.”

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott said: “The fact that, in just one week, over 1,000 people have signed this petition shows how important these hubs are to children and families in Suffolk.

“Any investment into outreach services is to be welcomed, but children who have severe speech and language challenges will continue to need the specialist support that these hubs provide.”

He urged those who have signed the petition to also formally log their protest by responding to the official consultation.

Judith Mobbs, assistant director for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and skills, said: “Early intervention of speech and language needs is so critical.

“If a family has to wait for months and months to get the support that's really detrimental to the child. We had a system with long waiting lists at three speech and language units that could meet the needs of only 45 children a year. The new model seeks to provide better services for children and for longer.”

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