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A new working group exploring access to therapies for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) presents an opportunity for occupational therapists (OTs) to raise awareness to the UK Government of their role in enabling children to realise their potential.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) has been leading a taskforce bringing together the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP), British Academy of Childhood Disability and the Disabled Children’s Partnership to call for greater access to therapy support for children and young people.

After gaining support from the Children’s Minister back in November to protect children’s therapists from redeployment, the college met with the minister in April 2021 to highlight concerns that therapy support for children with disabilities was sitting at just 30 percent of the level it was pre-pandemic.

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The minister was quick to act on RCOT’s advice and sent an email to all schools in England on 24th April to emphasise the guidance and ask that all therapists and health professionals have access to schools to help the most vulnerable children.

Due to RCOT’s work, the minister is setting up a working group consisting of NHS England, the Department for Education (DfE), Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) to look specifically at access to therapies for children and young people with SEND.

RCOT has been invited as a key driver to sit on this group and advise on the next steps to ensuring that the education, development and mental health of children and young people is not ignored.

The proposed working group is a welcome opportunity for OTs to raise awareness of their role in enabling children and young people with physical, learning and mental health needs to realise their potential and participate as valued members of their community.

RCOT says it will be pushing for cross-departmental support to ensure all children can access occupational therapy at the right time and in the right place.

Commenting on this development, RCOT Chief Executive Steve Ford, said: “This is really positive news, demonstrating how lobbying by the RCOT public affairs team gets results for our members and society.”

The college has confirmed it will be reaching out to members to engage with activity related to this working group.

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