Over two-thirds (70%) of occupational therapists are not currently able to provide the therapy that children and young people need, according to a survey.
The research by The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) said key barriers include: restricted access to schools; workforce issues, including understaffed teams; increased demand for occupational therapy and a backlog of cases; and family circumstances or concerns affecting access to telehealth or face-to-face support.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents had encountered schools that are reluctant to allow therapists to visit. Of these, 83% had met reluctance from mainstream schools and 48% from special schools.
Workforce pressures were a significant factor when it came to being able to provide therapy support, with over 50% of respondents reporting understaffing.
Steve Ford, Chief Executive of the RCOT, (pictured) said: “Occupational therapists have played a vital role in helping people recover from the pandemic, and this includes working on a daily basis with children and young people across the UK.
“The pandemic has proved a huge challenge for children and young people with additional needs and disabilities over the past year and a half. Whether dealing with loss of education or the mental health crisis as they return to education children and young people need as much support as possible, including that offered by occupational therapists.
“These survey results are truly concerning, and with over 80% of respondents reporting an increase in demand, we need the provision, funding and workforce to be fit for the future and deliver for children and young people.”
The RCOT recently met with Vicky Ford, Minister of State for Children and Families, to discuss access to therapies, and we will continue to work with governments across the UK to address the findings of the survey.