Who provides Speech & Language and Occupational therapy in Sutton?
Therapy is provided in Sutton by Health, Social Care and Education teams. In most instances, the provision is age related.
Cognus provides the majority of education-based therapy for children and young people up to the age of 25 years.
Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group provide therapy for early years and some primary age children and those with specific, complex health needs including dysphagia, dysfluency and progressive neurological disorder up to the age of 18 years.
Some schools provide their own Speech and Language and/or Occupational Therapy, and the Local Authority Social Care Team offer Occupational Therapy within the home setting.
We are currently engaged (as at February 2022) in a full review of the service commissioned by and in partnership with London Borough of Sutton to make sure that the local therapy offer continues to be in line with best practice and is sustainable for the future.
What is the position regarding recruitment of therapists given the national shortage of skilled staff?
The Cognus Therapies Team comprises a large number of therapists both from the UK and overseas (the majority of whom are permanent members of staff). As with all sectors, COVID-19 continues to affect us all, and this has had some impact on Cognus being able to recruit the mix of therapists we have been used to.
As a result, some children are receiving therapy delivered virtually to them in school by therapists who cannot be on site in person (“teletherapy”). We recognise that generally in-person therapy is preferable to virtual therapy sessions ( although a proportion of parents/carers and young people do prefer virtual sessions). Cognus will always try to recruit therapists (with the required specialist training where needed) who are able to provide in person therapy: there is an ongoing process for recruiting suitably qualified and experienced therapists to work locally in both mainstream and special settings. As soon as therapists who are able and willing to work in person are recruited, the number of in person sessions will increase. However, where it is not possible to source therapists who can work in person, Cognus will recruit therapists who can provide the appropriate therapy and deliver this through teletherapy. – i.e. virtually.
Recruitment remains a high priority for us. We continue to build strong relationships with university courses so that we can attract and then cultivate (“grow our own”) workforce for the future. We have an ongoing and proactive recruitment campaign to recruit skilled and qualified therapists to enable us to be able to recruit new and dynamic members of staff to join our team. Our terms are flexible, with both part-time and term-time contracts on offer, with the option of working additional hours to support us. In addition to this we offer sponsorship visas to attract overseas staff.
Why is teletherapy being used as an option?
During lockdown, rather than ceasing therapy delivery (as happened in many boroughs and Clinical Commissioning Groups), Cognus moved swiftly to deliver teletherapy to ensure as much continuity as possible. As a result, many children and young people, together with their parents and carers, welcomed this approach and responded positively.
We have continued with teletherapy for some pupils in a small number of our local schools to ensure that appropriate therapy provision remains available to all children who need it, whilst making the best use of available staffing.
We are currently offering a mixed model of face-to-face and teletherapy. This does not mean we only wish to use teletherapy, just that because of the reduction of therapists available to work or live in the local area, we cannot provide in person therapy on every occasion and teletherapy is being used for some pupils where it is an appropriate way to meet their needs and deliver the provision specified in their EHCPs. We work collaboratively with families, settings and the professionals to ensure that pupils are supported by therapists with the required qualifications and skills to support pupils effectively to achieve the outcomes in their EHCP.
How teletherapy works in Sutton
“Teletherapy” is the term used for the delivery of OT and/or SaLT interventions which are delivered by the therapist remotely via an electronic device (i.e. PC, laptop, tablet or mobile phone). The techniques and approaches used are the same as if the therapist were in the room and are in line with the expected inputs and outcomes for each child. This approach has been well researched by the Royal Colleges and is endorsed as a suitable method of delivery.
Having used this method since lockdown commenced we are reassured by our own experience that this method is an effective way to support children to make appropriate progress. Now that children are back in school, we are now able to support the delivery of teletherapy through school staff and integrate therapy into the school curriculum in the same way as in-person therapy. We have been very pleased that children continue to make progress against some or all of their targets when in receipt of teletherapy.
How are you supporting the school to provide this therapy?
We are committed to ensuring therapy, including teletherapy, is effective through: agreeing objectives, setting targets, delivering on Annual Reviews and supporting the school in adapting the curriculum to make it accessible to the children and young people we are supporting.
We continue to offer support and training to build capacity and ensure that all young people are in receipt of appropriate support when in the classroom.
As has been the case for several years, the amount of therapy specified in an EHCP will be delivered over the course of an academic year and is planned with the school and the family as needed.
What else are the Therapies Service currently focussing on in addition to their day-to-day work?
We are currently working in partnership with Sutton Council and Health to co-design an early intervention model with schools, so that together we can support more children with therapy needs at the right time.
In addition, we are:
- Working in partnership with NHS and Sutton Council to use feedback received from parents and young people to further develop the experience families gain from the local therapy offer
- Working with Sutton Parent Carers’ Forum, Sutton Council, Cognus Family Voice and SENDCOs in schools to ensure communication about our services improves for everyone
- Using social media, podcasts and partnering with national agencies to deliver information to our family and schools/settings
- Continuing to follow national best practice guidelines to develop the therapy service.
A list of key team members can be found here:
Patsy Winkley – Team Manager
Julie Kiely – Assistant Team Manager
Alex Benjamin – Principal OT
Alison Rees – Highly Specialist SaLT – Early Years and ASD
Ashlea Stephens – Highly Specialist SaLT – POST 16
Emily Harnett – Highly Specialist SaLT – Down Syndrome
Emma Perridge – Highly Specialist OT – POST 16
Helen Gardner – Highly Specialist OT – ASD and MLD
Helen Raby – Highly Specialist SaLT – DLD
Jessica Brown – Highly Specialist OT – Mainstream
Jo Wells – Highly Specialist SaLT – Mainstream and Verbal Dyspraxia
Lisa Ogden – Highly Specialist SaLT – SEMH, Young Offenders and Trauma
Rachel Wilson-Dickson – Highly Specialist SaLT – SEMH
Rose Fletcher – Highly Specialist SaLT – ASD
Tamara Rainsley – Highly Specialist SaLT – HI specialist
Tessa O’Brien – Highly Specialist SaLT – AAC specialist
Please contact your therapist directly via email@example.com or email the team inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org and your query/feedback will be forwarded to the appropriate member of staff.
You may also wish to follow the Therapy Team on Twitter via @cognustherapies
For more information on the work of the Cognus Therapies Team please click here: Cognus Therapies – Cognus
For an update from Sutton Council please click here: https://www.sutton.gov.uk/w/news-and-updates-update-on-the-children-s-therapy-review?p_l_back_url=%2Fweb%2Fguest%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dtherapies%2Bprovision
Last updated: 11th February 2022