Warning over loss of specialist communication service

By Neil Puffett

| 10 April 2012

The planned closure of a specialist speech and communication unit for children will result in a lack of provision and families being forced to pay for services, a coalition of voluntary organisations has warned.

Centre providing vital communication services will close in June. Image: The Communication Trust

The ACE Centre in Oxford has provided support for children and young people with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) needs for nearly 30 years but is due to close at the end of June.

The centre’s services have helped thousands of children to communicate with their families through communication aids and resources but has seen funding decline as fewer services are commissioned by local authorities.

The Communication Trust has urged the government to implement recommendations set out by former communication champion Jean Gross, calling for the preservation of specialist expertise around AAC. 

Anita Kerwin-Nye, director of The Communication Trust, said: “It is very sad and deeply concerning to be losing such an expert skill-set on delivering specialist AAC services. 

“The vital work of The ACE Centre in Oxford picked up the needs of what is typically a ‘low incidence’ but ‘high need’ group of children and young people. There are therefore very limited pockets of this expertise across the country."

She went on: “The real risk is that unless the government adopts quickly the model put forward by Jean Gross, other expert provision will be lost. 

“The Communication Trust and other experts in the field back this model and are calling for support to be made available to develop the provider market further. 

“A number of children rely on AAC to communicate with their family, learn at school and to make friends. 

“It is wrong that families are being told there is no provision available or that they will have to pay for this fundamental service.”


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