Our team of speech-language therapists (SLTs) is growing. Most of us are based in the Auckland region but with the expansion of our Ministry for Children, Oranga Tamariki projects, we now have SLTs in some other areas of the country.
The original youth justice projects we carried out last year with Oranga Tamariki social workers and youth justice coordinators in Waitakere and Otahuhu/Mangere have been tweaked and are now being delivered to some other teams. Some of those also include care and protection staff working with us along with their youth justice colleagues. Projects are underway in Papakura, Rotorua and Palmerston North, and will soon be starting in Otara, Whangarei and Tauranga. The South Island will have their first project hopefully later this year.
You can find our SLTs in a range of courts around NZ, again mainly in the Auckland region but also in other centres. We are handling an increasing number of referrals for Communication Assistants and the age range (children, youth and adults) and reason for communication expertise varies. Providing education for professionals about these roles has happened recently, with the latest being a talk to the Public Defence Service in Manukau yesterday.
We also have a growing caseload of children and young people (and a couple of adults) who are receiving speech-language therapy assessments and interventions from our team. Many of these young people are involved with care and protection and/or youth justice services and our role is to support the team around each person with building up the person’s communication skills in whatever contexts they are in, and we also help the person and the team around them to adapt the various ‘talk-fests’ they might need to participate in, so that the person can understand and have a voice.
Alayne McKee, who is central to many Talking Trouble Aoteraoa NZ activities, and I will be heading to the UK to learn from speech-language therapists and those who undertake Intermediary (the UK term for court-appointed Communication Assistant) roles. Alayne has won a Churchill Fellowship for this and I have also applied for funding that I’m waiting to hear about. This will be a whirlwind trip to meet with many experts working in care and protection and justice settings. We are excited about training to be trainers with Talking Mats in Stirling, Scotland as we see considerable potential for this communication tool in the work we do and also the work many others do in care and protection, justice and mental health settings. Their Staying Safe tool can be very useful when carrying out HEADSSS wellbeing assessments with youth or finding out what a child or young person thinks about their care situation or a transition. We are also looking forward to learning from colleagues at several universities, SLT projects in prisons and care and protection teams, as well as community based interventions, and we will also be learning from a range of intermediaries who work with the Police and the Courts in England and Wales.
Alayne and I will be heading to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner later this week to support their team as they develop tools for helping the children and young people they work with communicate their views. We have a number of other similar exciting projects like this in the pipeline and we are looking forward to launching our Youth Voices report soon which summarises the information provided by young people when they were asked for their views about communicating in justice contexts such as Family Group Conferences and Court in NZ. The young people have useful advice for professionals and we are looking forward to talking about their ideas in various conferences and training workshops later this year.
We will be running workshops that anyone can sign up for so let us know if you are interested in a workshop in a particular area of the country and we’ll try to get something set up. We will have at least one Auckland date later this year and we’re also looking at venues and dates for Wellington and Dunedin.