10 May 2022

Today (10 May 2022) HRH the Prince of Wales delivered the Queen’s Speech on the Queen’s behalf. It has set out the UK government’s priorities for the year ahead.

The Queen’s Speech includes bills relevant to:

  • People with communication and swallowing needs and their families; and
  • Speech and language therapists.

Schools bill and schools white paper

We share the government’s ambition to give every child in the country a world-class education, providing the foundation they need to secure future well paid jobs.

To make that happen, two things must be done:

  • The development of children and young people’s spoken language* must be at the heart of the schools bill; and
  • Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (communication needs) must receive the support they, their families and the people working with them need. This must include access to speech and language therapy where required.

The RCSLT’s new joint briefing (PDF) with Voice 21, the national oracy education charity, and I CAN, the children’s communication charity, sets out in more detail what needs to happen in the schools bill and the schools white paper.

* For ease we are using the term ‘spoken language’ when referring to the schools bill. We take a broad and inclusive definition. We are talking about supporting children through oracy. We are also talking about supporting children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. This includes those who speak using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and sign languages, such as British Sign Language (BSL).

Draft mental health reform bill

We support the reform of the Mental Health Act (1983) (PDF) to:

  • Ensure patients suffering from mental health conditions have greater control over their treatment and receive the dignity and respect they deserve; and
  • Make it easier for people with learning disabilities and autism to be discharged from hospital.

Understanding and being understood is central to all four of the key guiding principles of the proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act (1983).

Therefore, the communication needs of people accessing mental health services must be identified and supported. This must include them having access to speech and language therapy where required.

Draft victims bill

We know from our work on the Domestic Abuse Act (PDF) and in criminal justice more widely that many victims can have communication needs.

These can prevent them understanding and expressing what is happening to them. They can also prevent them being able to access support services as well as taking part in the criminal justice system.

Improving the support victims receive in and beyond the criminal justice system must include the identification of and support for any communication needs they have.

Levelling up

Levelling up must include the levelling up of access to speech and language therapy.

For too long, access has been a postcode lottery. It has too often been based on where you live and not on what your needs are.

Respondents to the RCSLT’s Speech and language therapy during and beyond COVID-19: building back better with people who have communication and swallowing needs report told us the pandemic has made this worse. Those in the most deprived areas had a worse experience than those in the least deprived areas.

This is also essential to tackle the health inequalities that people with communication and swallowing needs face.

Wider government policies

It is important that wider government policies also ensure:

  • Support for people of all ages with communication and swallowing needs, their families and the people working with them; and
  • The experience of speech and language therapists is harnessed and maximised.

This includes in:

For more information, please contact: