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Key points

  • The term “looked-after children” generally refers to children who are looked-after by their local authority, whether in residential settings, foster care or at home
  • Looked-after children typically experience poorer outcomes than their non looked-after peers
  • Speech, language and communication needs are more prevalent in children who grow up in neglected environments and disadvantaged homes, which includes many looked after children
  • Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) working with this population need to be aware of issues relating to consent, parental responsibility, custodial settings and the particular needs of looked-after children
  • Speech and language therapy services should take steps to ensure that looked-after children are not disadvantaged

Who are looked-after children?

The term “looked-after children” generally refers to children who are looked-after by their local authority, whether in residential settings, foster care or at home. Different legislative and policy frameworks apply to looked after children across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Looked-after children typically experience poorer outcomes than their non looked-after peers, including poor education attainments and reduced employment opportunities (Simkiss 2012).

Role of speech and language therapy

Speech, language and communication needs are more prevalent in children who grow up in neglected environments and disadvantaged homes, which includes many looked-after children (NICE, 2015). These needs can often be overlooked, due to other issues taking precedence and/or frequent geographical moves.

Speech and language therapists working with this population need to be aware of issues relating to consent, parental responsibility, custodial settings and the particular needs of looked-after children. These include an increased likelihood of attachment disorders and social communication difficulties (McCool and Stevens, 2011).

Speech and language therapy services should take steps to ensure that looked-after children are not disadvantaged. These include familiarity with the roles and responsibilities of local authorities and health bodies, working with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and raising awareness of the impact of abuse and neglect on communication skills.

Resources

RCSLT Factsheets:

Social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing

Looked-after children

Safeguarding

RCSLT Social Emotional Mental Health webpage

Key organisations