2018 Ask for the 2019 Budget

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Actions Taken and Progress Made

Survey

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) filled out 141 Communication Matters surveys about publicly funded SLP service delivery for preschool-age children (December, 2015).

  • The Survey Summary provided a strong foundation for speaking notes when:
    • Communication Matters representatives spoke with Carole James (current Minister of Finance and current Deputy Premier) in 2016,
    • SLPs filled out surveys, provided written submissions, and spoke at the public consultations for the 2017 Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ request for input regarding the government’s 2018 budget planning.

Public Consultations

SLPs, parents, caregivers and others filled out at least  26 of the 666 online surveys submitted to the Select Standing Committee in 2017, giving voice to our hope for increased service for preschool-age children.

At least 12 of the 292 written submissions to the 2017 public consultations advocated for increased SLP services for preschool-age children.

Approximately 6 of 187 oral presentations to the 2017 public consultations advocated for increased SLP services for preschool-age children.

  • Your actions and the message you sent were strongly reflected in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation. The need for increased SLP services for preschool-age children was noted under two themes (Health Care and Social Services):
    • Health Care Recommendation #20:
      • Prioritize and increase funding for speech-language pathology services for children to address the urgent need for access to timely and effective services, and to ensure an appropriate number of speech-language pathologists are available to assist young children prior to starting kindergarten, and
    • Social Services Recommendation #37:
      • Increase access to early childhood identification and intervention services, including occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language pathology, with a focus on addressing urgent recruitment and retention challenges of professionals in this sector.

Letters Immediately Prior to Budget Release

Some SLPs wrote letters directly to Carole James, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, immediately prior to the release of the 2018 budget to highlight the relevant recommendations from the Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation and to reiterate the request for increased SLP services for preschool-age children. 

After the BC government sifted through all the recommendations listed in the Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation, the request for increased SLP services for preschool-age children was only minimally reflected in the actual Budget 2018. In this budget, early intervention services were given additional funding; however SLP services were not identified separately.

As small as these steps may seem, this progress was an unexpected success for our first year!

In planning for our Call to Action 2017, we had been told by many advisors to expect to advocate for several years before our message would be reflected in the Budget recommendations. Together, we accomplished this in our first year!

Now we want to continue the push to increase SLP services for preschool-age children in BC. If you’re interested in more information about how you can participate, click here.

 

Suggested Letter Template

The Minister of Finance will be announcing the 2018 Budget in February. This provides the public with another chance to highlight the important need for additional funding for speech-language therapy services for young children in BC, so that the recommendations from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation make it into the 2018 Budget.

Below is a suggested letter template that you can copy and paste to send to Carole James, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier. Use the entire letter below if you plan to send a hard copy letter. Or, if you plan to send an email, you can start copying at “Dear Minister James…” and send to FIN.Minister@gov.bc.ca.

Anything that is bold and inside square parentheses is meant to be deleted so that you can add your personal details. Please modify the following letter as much or as little as you like. If you would like to write your own letter from scratch, that is great!

If you have difficulties copying and pasting from this site, you can download and customize this Microsoft Word (.docx) file, Budget 2018 Letter.


[If sending a hard copy letter,
your address here]

[Date]

Honourable Carole James
Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier
Room 153 Parliament Buildings
Victoria, British Columbia V8V 1X4

Dear Minister James:

I was [relieved/happy/excited/] to see the following recommendation in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation:

Recommendation #20. Prioritize and increase funding for speech-language pathology services for children to address the urgent need for access to timely and effective services, and to ensure an appropriate number of speech-language pathologists are available to assist young children prior to starting kindergarten.

I’m hoping you will incorporate the aforementioned recommendation into the 2018 Budget. This is important to me because [please add your own reason(s) here, if more than one reason we suggest using bullet points].

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

[Your name here]

Exciting News!

The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services just released their Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation. We are thrilled to let you know that speech-language pathology (SLP) services for young children have been clearly identified as a priority in their recommendations. The importance of these services is mentioned under Themes 1 and 3.

Theme 1: Health Care

Speech-Language Pathology or Therapy

Recommendation #20. Prioritize and increase funding for speech-language pathology services for children to address the urgent need for access to timely and effective services, and to ensure an appropriate number of speech-language pathologists are available to assist young children prior to starting kindergarten.

Theme 3: Social Services

Child Care and Early Childhood Development

Recommendation #37. Increase access to early childhood identification and intervention services, including occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language pathology, with a focus on addressing urgent recruitment and retention challenges of professionals in this sector.

Special thanks to all of the parents, caregivers, grandparents, concerned citizens, communication health assistants, and speech-language pathologists who took the time to share their stories and get our message to policymakers. This historic step forward would not have happened without you!

Consultations closed & Thank you

The public consultations by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services closed yesterday evening. The Committee’s report will be released by November 15, 2017.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2017 Call to Action. If you haven’t already, please fill out this short poll to let us know if, and how, you participated.

Our hearts are full with gratitude to everyone who supported this initiative.

The Ask, 2017

When we started Communication Matters, an SLP Advocacy Group for Young Children, in 2014, one of the first things we did was to decide on our Vision. Since January 14, 2015, our Vision has been, “We believe it is important for all preschool-age children in British Columbia to receive the speech-language pathology services they need.” We acknowledge that this view is shared by many other speech-language pathologists (SLPs), other professionals who work with preschoolers, as well as other members of the public at large.

This year is the first time we have encouraged people to participate in the Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services public consultations to advocate for young children with speech-language needs. Based on feedback from our volunteers and other interested speech-language pathologists, we want to share a specific ask so that everyone can feel comfortable answering these questions and understanding what we are truly advocating for. Therefore we have provided the following as our official ask for 2017 that you can feel free to quote, use as your own ask, or modify to use as your own ask.

Our Ask for 2017 directly relates to the Communication Matters Vision:

What are we asking for?

Communication Matters, an SLP Advocacy Group for Young Children, is asking that all children in British Columbia (BC) who need speech-language pathology (SLP) support have access to timely and effective service. This means additional SLPs immediately, and a mandate to collect more data to determine the further need.

How many SLPs are needed?

Based on our province-wide survey results and population estimates, Communication Matters has estimated that funding for at least 200 additional SLPs is needed immediately. The number of additional SLPs needed is actually higher than this, but this would be a start.

Where will the SLPs come from?

Some may be recruited back from private practice, others would come as new graduates, others may move from other provinces with the appeal of working with more manageable caseloads, others may be privately contracted similar to those contracted through At-Home or Autism funding.

How would data be collected to determine exact need?

First, ensure all publicly funded SLP programs for young children in BC are using the same records management and data collection system to track demand/need (e.g., NucleusLabs, which is already in use by several Ministry of Children & Family Development funded agencies). Then, use evidence-based practice guidelines to determine the exact need. This could be accomplished by an expert working group comprised of representatives for all stakeholders.

This is a learning process for us, and it is possible that based on the outcome of the 2017 public consultations, we may need to revise our ask for 2018. Thank you to everyone who has provided us with input, including our 2015 survey respondents, and supported this initiative. This is for you!

For more information, please refer to our current call to action and key messages.

Why is it important to treat speech and language delays as soon as possible?

Speech and language treatment is more effective and less costly to the public system when children receive it earlier in life. 1 2 5 6 9 10

Many decades of research have proven that an investment in early intervention for speech, language and other developmental delays pays dividends many times over. By investing in the health and well-being of young children, a tremendous amount of money can be saved over time in the public school system, health care, and legal system. Investment in early speech and language services is an investment in the health of the child, the family, and the community.

Children’s brains are geared to learn quickly in early childhood. 2 3 4 5 6 7 10

The first six years of life is an important time in a child’s life for learning the basics of speech, language and other important foundational skills. After age six, neuroplasticity is reduced and it becomes more difficult (but not impossible) for the human brain to learn speech and language. Many decades of research has proven without a doubt that early intervention brings about the best results.

Severely impaired communication skills are a barrier to normal human relationships. 10

It can be difficult for children with significant speech and language delays to build and maintain normal relationships with important adults in their lives such as caregivers, teachers or extended family members. Children with severely delayed communication skills may also have difficulty building friendships with other children. Poor communication skills can restrict a child’s ability to play and socialize with other children. A child needs adequate speech and language skills, as well as communication confidence, to introduce him or herself to other children, ask to join in play, and negotiate the rules of the game. As children grow older, normal play and socializing include activities in which more sophisticated communication skills are necessary.  

Language and intelligence support each other in early development. 2 3 4 5 10

Starting in very early childhood, communication skills and intelligence support each other and grow together. Children learn best by communicating with caring adults in social relationships. When they are able to use their communication skills to make connections with adults, those adults tend to spend more time talking with these children. These conversations are important learning opportunities for a child. When an adult talks with a child, the child can then use his or her language and speech skills to ask the adult for even more information. As the conversation flows back and forth, the child’s mind receives the stimulation and information it needs to grow and flourish. Celebrate the curiosity of a preschool child when he or she asks, “Why?” “Who?” “Where?” Give thoughtful answers to those questions. You are giving information to feed a growing mind!

Children with speech and language delays are at risk for developing anxiety about communicating. 4 10

Speech-language pathologists and other early childhood development professionals have recently noticed an increase in the number of children who show signs of anxiety. Many children with significant speech and language difficulties lose their confidence about their ability to communicate with other people when they experience many failed attempts at communication. As a result, they sometimes shy away from interacting with others. When an anxious child withdraws from others, the child misses out on opportunities to learn, participate in the community, make new friends, and share their own ideas and stories. Children who can successfully communicate with others enjoy a healthy amount of control in their lives. This helps to build a child’s self-confidence.

Children who have difficulty communicating sometimes develop unwanted behaviours as a way to cope with their frustration. 1 6 10

If a child’s speech and language difficulties are not resolved early, unwanted behaviours may develop due to extreme frustration. These behaviours may include biting, hitting, pinching, or pushing others. If the child turns his or her frustrations inward, they may harm themselves in physical, emotional or psychological ways. This does not mean that a child is “bad”; it’s just that they have no other way to communicate. These behaviours are simply forms of self-expression. But these unwanted behaviours can become habits, and these habits can lead to social, emotional and psychological problems over time.

Children with good speech and language skills at the start of kindergarten are more likely to succeed at school. 2 3 4 8 9 10

Children who have any type of developmental delay, including speech and language delays, are at risk of falling behind at school. An important part of being “kindergarten ready” is having adequate communication skills to participate in the classroom and be ready to learn. Children need to understand spoken language well enough to understand new information and to follow instructions. Children also need adequate speech and language skills to ask and answer questions, successfully interact with others, and communicate their thoughts and ideas clearly. Kindergarten readiness is an important measure of success to those who are responsible for the public health system.

Good speech and language skills are the foundations for learning to read and write. 3 4 8 10

When children learn how to read and write, they use their knowledge of spoken speech and language to help them understand how words and sentences are written. If a child’s knowledge of spoken language is delayed (for example, they have many speech sound errors well into their first years of school, or their spoken language sounds immature compared to other children their age), their foundation for reading and writing is weaker. Children with speech and language delays are more likely to struggle in learning to read and write. Educators often say that children learn to read until Grade 3, and read to learn after Grade 3. This means that if a child has not learned to read well enough by Grade 3, he or she will find it more and more difficult to be successful in higher grades.

Children with poor speech and language skills face many risks throughout life. 1 2 4 5 7 9 10

Poor communication skills are closely linked to poor life chances. Children with delayed speech and language skills are at risk for failure at school, problems connecting with others, fewer educational opportunities, and poorer professional opportunities. Children with poor communication skills are also at risk for lower self-esteem, poor self-confidence and higher risks for mental health issues as they get older. Studies have shown a close link between poor communication skills and increased chances of being jailed.


References

  1. Canadian Paediatric Society and Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “The promise of the early years: How long should children wait?” Paediatric Child Health 2012, Vol 17 No 10: 535-536.
  2. Centre on the Developing Child, Harvard University; NGA Center for Best Practices; and National Conference of State Legislatures. “In Brief: The science of early childhood development.” www.developingchild.harvard.edu. Accessed September 2017.
  3. Head Zauche et al. “Influence of language nutrition on children’s language and cognitive development: An integrated review.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 2016, 36: 318-333.
  4. Head Zauche et al. “The power of language nutrition for children’s brain development, health, and future academic achievement.” Journal of Pediatric Health Care 2017 Vol 31 No 4: 493-503.
  5. Heckman, J.J. “Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children.” Science 2006 Vol 312: 1900-1902.
  6. Hertzman, C. “The significance of early childhood adversity.” Paediatric Child Health 2013 Vol 18 No 3: 127-128.
  7. Human Early Learning Partnership. The importance of early child development, 2014: 1-3.
  8. Inclusion BC et al. Kids Can’t Wait: The case for investing in early childhood intervention programs in British Columbia. Report on the 2016 Provincial Early Childhood Intervention Summit, 2016.
  9. Kershaw, P., et al. “The Economic Costs of Early Vulnerability in Canada.” Canadian Journal of Public Health 2010; 101 (Suppl. 3): S8-S12.
  10. Law, J. and Charlton, J. Language as a child wellbeing indicator. Early Intervention Foundation, 2017.

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