Therapy for Down's syndrome boy 'stopped for weeks'

Zach Broxham
Image caption Zach has a statement for six weeks of 30-minute sessions of specialist speech and language therapy treatment

A five-year-old boy with Down's syndrome has had his specialist therapy cut because of staff shortages, his mother has claimed.

Zach Broxham, from Yealmpton, in Devon, is entitled to specialist speech and language therapy.

His mother, Sam, said the service was cut when therapist hours were reduced.

Virgin Care, which runs Devon's integrated children's services, said they "recognised communication with parents could have been better".

Ms Broxham said Zach may now need to be taken out of his mainstream school in Plymouth. He has a statement for three blocks of direct therapy per year - each block is normally made up of 30 minute sessions over six weeks.

She said: "He's had two sessions this term and he will not be getting any more.

"They [Virgin Care] have said they cannot provide any more until the end of July.

"If he doesn't get the therapy now, what alternative is there, but a special school?"

'Fully entitled'

Ms Broxham said the service helped Zach to learn his verbs, letters and numbers, so he "could do well in school".

She said the therapist, who worked four-days-a-week before going on maternity leave, was replaced with someone who worked one-day-a-week.

Ms Broxham said: "How can he be included when he can't communicate with his peers?

"It's not fair on the other children in the class because he can't speak and how can they understand him?"

A spokesperson from Devon County Council, which issues statements of special educational needs, said: "Zach is fully entitled to the therapy outlined in his statement.

"Virgin Care has assured us he will be receiving the speech therapy to which he is entitled."

A spokesman for Virgin Care said: "We are fully aware there have been long-standing issues with speech and language therapy in this part of Devon.

"Since taking on responsibility for services from April, we have been investing significant amounts of time and resource, along with our colleagues in Devon County Council and the local NHS, in addressing these needs and ensuring that children get the care they need.

"We recognise communication with parents and children who need our services is crucial and we are aware that in this particular situation they could have been better.

"We are committed to putting this right."

  • This story was amended on 5 July in light of clarification from Virgin Care of their position and the Special Educational Needs statement.

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