I have watched with admiration as the Giving Voice campaign has spread the message across the UK that speech and language therapy transforms lives.
Having been active in both Speak Weeks (circa 1987 and 1990) and the rather oddly named SpeakWatch (1994), it is fascinating to see how tools for raising awareness and ways of measuring success have changed, while the passion and many of the issues have not.
The Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists now has a Policy and Public Affairs Team which has provided the advice, coordination and resources to inspire and enable therapists at a local level to get active. One of the most useful of these is the report from Matrix Evidence into the cost benefits of speech and language therapy. (College members can calculate the savings for local services to people with dysphagia, aphasia, specific language impairment and autism here.)
Although the hard statistics following Tuesday’s mass mobilisation event and awards ceremony are encouraging enough in themselves (255 turned out for the Giving Voice rally, over 100 MPs were met, and over 400 tweets including #givingvoiceuk were published), the softer ripple effects count even more in the longer term. This includes the increased camaraderie among teams and the success of shared projects and a common purpose with service users.
For Jennie Marshall – who cycled 180 miles to the event using a Lightwriter to communicate – it has provided a great deal of insight and opportunity for reflection. As she said at the Giving Voice rally, “The cycling is child’s play compared to using a communication aid…I can’t imagine how life would be if I didn’t have a voice.” A number of younger members of the profession including Sophie Jankel (Social Media Campaigner of the Year award) and Julie Carr (Outstanding Contribution award), have found their campaigning voice and I have no doubt we will all benefit from this in the years to come.
As veteran campaigner Pam Enderby said, we want to do something about the fact that speech, language and communication difficulties affect relationships, education and employment, and we need to do it “in the context of an ever-moving NHS.” Compared with times of previous campaigns we have more evidence, our therapy is more effective we will not be driven into losing our care. “It’s not just a job, it’s a part of our lives…I am very proud to be a speech and language therapist.”
The photos show Ele Buckley, RCSLT National Coordinator for Local Campaigns, with the rally on Westminster Bridge, and Sophie Jankel receiving her award at Church House from Rt Hon John Bercow MP.