More than 20,000 people in the UK may be living without access to a powered communication aid that would enable them to communicate more effectively. The charity Communication Matters says that these people are being deprived of a voice, and the opportunity to reach their potential, because communication aid provision is not meeting needs.
The charity has just published its report, Shining a Light on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, which is the culmination of a three-year research project into augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). It found that nearly a third of a million people across the UK (316,000) are benefiting or may benefit from AAC support. While roughly 31,600 of these people could use a powered communication aid, only around 9,000 are currently using one.
Using research conducted by the University of Sheffield, the report reveals wide discrepancies in AAC provision across the country. It points to a lack of consistency in identifying and assessing those with communication issues. Some local areas were found to rely on funding from in-year savings from other budgets to pay for AAC equipment, making planning difficult or even impossible.
The charity also says that many AAC professionals spend a great deal of their time trying to source funding for equipment, which has a negative impact on the service they can provide. While there were those who were happy with the support they get, the majority of AAC users and their families expressed frustration with all or some parts of the AAC service they receive.
Describing the report as “a wake-up call”, Communication Matters’ Research Manager Katie Holmes said that the commissioning of services, funding arrangements and specialist expertise in the UK was not meeting the growing need for AAC support. “It has confirmed what we knew anecdotally: that there is a postcode lottery of support and provision for both children and adults who use AAC”, she said.
To download the Shining a Light on Augmentative and Alternative Communication report, visit, www.communicationmatters.org.uk/shining-a-light-on-aac
In the next issue of SEN Magazine, Cathy Harris, the Chair of Communication Matters, will discuss the report’s findings and their implications for families and professionals.