17 April 2024

Our new report ‘We are the Village – Speech, Language and Communication in the Early Years’, highlights the current high levels of need in speech and communication in children and babies across Northern Ireland  

In 2023, we noticed a trend in reports around the growing numbers of children with speech and communication needs and commissioned research to better understand the issues that the sector was facing. The new report, ‘We are the Village’ highlights the key findings from the research, which was carried out by the RCSLT Northern Ireland office. Early years providers told us not only about the increasing numbers of children presenting with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), but also about a rise in the complexity of need. The findings of the report have also made clear challenges with capacity and how the current workforce is stretched to meet the increasing needs of the sector. 

Key statistics which highlight the challenges faced by workers in the field include: 

  • Early Years Providers reported a 90% an increase in the number of children presenting with speech, language and communication needs  
  • 95% of community paediatricians surveyed reported seeing an increase in the complexity of SLC 
  • 70% of community paediatricians reported an increase in referrals to the Child Development Clinic 

The report calls for the Minister for Health to first increase the number of undergraduate places at Ulster University and then support the introduction of alternative routes into the profession to achieve a sustainable workforce. Those representing the needs of our babies and children are urged to acknowledge the significance of speech, language and communication on life outcomes for young people, and the risks if not addressed in the critical early years.  

We are delighted to have many contributions from key stakeholders within the report and would love our members to show their support. We’re asking our members to engage with the launch of the report by sharing with your networks directly and through social media. 

To find out more details about the specifics of the report including letters of support from other organisations working in the sector, please read the new report in full below

Read ‘We are the village’ report in full