Demand for occupational therapy in children’s services across the UK has risen sharply, the findings of a survey by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) show. 85% of those surveyed said that there had been an increase in demand for their services over the last year. This is already on top of an 80% increase reported July 2021.
The survey’s findings paint a stark picture, showing that children’s services are overstretched, underfunded and that staff are worried they can’t give children the level of help they need.
Nearly 350 occupational therapists responded to the survey.
Highlights of the survey include:
- 85% said the demand for occupational therapy has increased since July 2021.
- 65% said children and young people were presenting with more complex physical, mental health and learning needs.
- 69% of occupational therapists said their teams were not fully staffed.
- 47% felt they couldn’t provide the level or type of occupational therapy input that children and young people need.
Commenting on the survey findings Dr Sally Payne, RCOT Professional Adviser for Children, Young People and Families said:
‘We are seeing an unsustainable equation right across the UK. There is rising demand for children’s services, an increase in the complexity of children’s needs, often with pandemic-related anxiety, and not nearly enough staff to help them due to a workforce crisis. The outcome of this is that occupational therapists who work with children, many of whom have physical, learning, and mental health difficulties, can’t provide them with the support they badly need and deserve.
‘It feels like we are at a crisis point. The governments of the UK need to act now or the situation for children, their families and for the occupational therapy workforce, will get even worse. There needs to be funding for an occupational therapist in every school, a recruitment drive, better pay and an improvement in children’s services to prevent a catastrophe from happening.’
Lucy Robertshaw and occupational therapist working in Children’s services said:
‘As demand increases there is pressure on staff to pick up more and more complex cases. There isn’t time to assess each case thoroughly which affects clinical reasoning and care planning. Staff feel like they can’t deliver the care that children and young people need to meet their long term needs.’