During Prime Minister's Questions on 13th March 2013, in response to a question from Paul Maynard MP, David Cameron committed the Government to making sure the NHS will make AAC available to more people in future. Paul Maynard MP later led a debate in the House of Commons on Augmentative and Alternative Communication Services where he spoke passionately about AAC and the need for greater support from the Government. A day before the debate, Paul Maynard MP and Communication Matters met with Care Minister Norman Lamb MP to discuss a number of key issues relating to the future commissioning of AAC.
Following the debate and the meeting, huge progress was made, leading to NHS England confirming that the identified level of historical spend is "inaccurate and inadequate" (£3.5 million) and that a bid has been submitted for £15 million for the 2014-15 financial year to NHS England. Previously NHS England had not accepted the level of identified need which had meant that AAC services were due to face a significant shortfall in funding over future years.
On this page, you will find these archived updates for 2013:
- June 2013 - Update on AAC Services Debate & Meeting with Health Minister
- May 2013 - Update on Lobbying & AAC Commissioning in England
- April 2013 - DfE AAC Grants Project - The Future of AAC Services in England
- March 2013 - Prime Minister to ensure AAC available to more people
On 6 June 2013, Conservative MP Paul Maynard led a debate in the House of Commons on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Services. Paul is a strong supporter of Communication Matters and during the debate he spoke passionately around AAC and the need for greater support from the Government. He raised concerns about the complexity and confusion around the structure for specialised commissioning for equipment, noting that AAC is one of five areas for which complex disability equipment is to be commissioned nationally. Paul also complained about underfunding of services, noting that 0.014% of the population currently use a powered aid when the total need is estimated to be 0.05% - "about 3.5 times what is currently being funded". He said that while he was not necessarily asking for more money to be spent, he did say that NHS England should "begin from a sensible starting point when making its decisions". He also stressed the concern that NHS England were using historical budgets for specialised AAC provision and called for more accurate figures to be used.
In response, the Health Minister Norman Lamb set out the background and confirmed the expectations of NHS England in relation to AAC, saying that it will draw on the recommendations of the Bercow Review and the Communication Champion, Jean Gross. The Minister said that work is ongoing for setting the budget for commissioning AAC services and that non-NHS organisations could bid for AAC services. Lamb also discussed the role of Health and Wellbeing Boards, saying that they must have "have particular regard for hard-to-reach groups and those with complex conditions which will require more specialised health services". Lamb acknowledged that "the ability to speak and communicate is a pretty basic human right, and that it should be recognised as such", while he went on to praise Communication Matters and its recent Shining a Light on AAC research study.
A day before the debate, Paul Maynard MP and Catherine Harris, Chair of Communication Matters, met with Norman Lamb MP to introduce Communication Matters and discuss a number of key issues relating to the future commissioning of AAC. Communication Matters are going to follow up relevant issues with the Minister and ensure pressure is maintained on the Government, so that the Prime Minister's promise that more children and adults will be provided with communication aids by the NHS becomes a reality.
As you might be aware, this is a critical time for the AAC community with two major pieces of legislation impacting on the future provision of AAC services. The Children and Families Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, heralds the biggest transformation in service provision for special educational needs in over thirty years. At the same time the Health and Social Care Act 2012 came in effect this April, overhauling the commissioning of health and social care services. Due to the extensive changes proposed Communication Matters has worked hard to continue supporting those children and adults who require AAC services and communication aids.
Prime Minister commits to supporting AAC
In recent weeks there have been a number of positive developments. During Prime Minister's Questions on 13th March 2013, David Cameron committed his Government to making sure the NHS will make AAC available to more people in future. The is alongside the promise from NHS England (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board) specialist AAC assessment and communication aids are made available to all who need them.
Parliamentary Written Questions
To ensure that momentum has been continued following this commitment, supportive MP Paul Maynard has tabled a series of Parliamentary Written Questions to elicit more information from the Department of Health. Other supportive MPs and Peers have written to the Department of Health welcoming the Prime Minister's commitment and also calling for more support to be given to the AAC sector.
Meeting with the Minister of State for Care and Support
Next week Communication Matters will be meeting with the Minister of State for Care and Support, Norman Lamb MP, to discuss recent developments including the budget for future AAC services and how to support AAC specialist services to provide training and assistance to local service providers. Norman is the Minister responsible for social care and has been involved in health policy for over a decade.
Adjournment Debate on AAC
The 6th June will see AAC take centre stage in Parliament with Paul Maynard MP leading a debate in the House of Commons on the 'Future commissioning arrangements of augmentative and alternative communication services'. Communication Matters will brief Paul Maynard MP and other supportive MPs ahead of the debate but we would be most grateful if any members could get in touch with their local MPs to ask them to attend the debate. If you have any questions please contact Gary Jones on 020 7463 0697 or [email protected].
Complex Disability Equipment Clinical Reference Group
As you will be aware, Complex Disability Equipment Clinical Reference Group has worked to support the new specialised services commissioning landscape, which has been in place since April 2013. The group has now been reformed and within the group there is AAC Sub Group of which Communication Matters Chair, Cathy Harris is a member. Cathy will be using this position to ensure that the AAC sector is considered when decisions are being taken.
In the coming weeks Communication Matters will be working to ensure that positive dialogue is continued with relevant Ministers, officials and Parliamentarians to ensure that messages can quickly and effectively be communicated to the heart of the decision making process. This includes setting up a meeting with the Prime Minister's new Adviser on Health, Nick Seddon, and also Labour MP Pat Glass, who has a strong interest in SEN and AAC. Communication Matters will also be using the next stages of the Children and Families Bill to raise relevant issues.
This publication reports on the outcomes of Department for Education (DfE) funding provided to develop proposals for a model of AAC service provision for the future. The report is available on this site for download. You can also explore interactive charts of the data gathered in mapping AAC services provided at local or statutory levels. In addition, resources and tools are available if you wish to find out more about using remote access and video conferencing as additional means of deliverying AAC services.
At Prime Minister's Questions today (13 March 2013) David Cameron responded to Paul Maynard MP by praising the work of the ACE Centre and making a commitment to ensuring communication aids are made available to more people. Read the transcript below or watch recording (at time 26:33) www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21767853
Commenting on the response, Catherine Harris, Chair of Communication Matters, said: "Having recently represented Communication Matters at a meeting chaired by Paul Maynard MP, it is so encouraging to have this positive news today about funding for AAC."
Paul Maynard MP (Cons, Blackpool North and Cleveleys): "I know that the Prime Minister recently visited the ACE Centre in Oxford and I am sure that he shares my view that they do a fantastic job helping young disabled people communicate more effectively using technical aids. What guarantees can the Prime Minister give that augmentative and assistive communication aids will be made available to more young people than is currently the case, enabling everyone who could benefit to do so?"
Prime Minister: "I am really grateful to my Honourable Friend for raising this issue because the ACE Centre - which has been now located in my constituency, previously in Oxford - has done incredible work for people with disabilities over many years and they are making the most of the extraordinary changes in technology. And when I visited them recently, we looked at a whole raft of ways in which we could make sure the NHS is making these things available to more people. And I am very committed to working with him and the ACE Centre to make sure that happens."