Mapping AAC Services in the North of England – The DfE AAC Project

Here in Barnsley we’re having a busy time identifying all the services in the North of England that are involved in AAC provision. It’s only going to get busier as this project draws to a close at the end of March!

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication and includes all the ways in which people communicate if they find speaking difficult. This might mean using a communication aid, a communication passport, a word chart, a symbol chart, or signing. At the moment the services that provide AAC face different challenges depending on their local arrangements – for example some have no straightforward route for applying for funding for communication aids, and some do not have access to up-to-date equipment for their clients to trial during the assessment process.

The context for this project is the current re-organisation of the NHS. Nationally it has been recognised that these services are disparate and not commissioned appropriately. A number of reports have highlighted this and there is a high degree of campaigning around the current proposals as they are seen as an opportunity to improve provision.  The re-organisation means that specialised AAC equipment services will be commissioned via a national commissioning board.  Other local AAC services would be commissioned by ‘CCGs’ – local collectives of GPs.

This project is funded by DfE and it aims to pave the way for services that provide AAC to have greater equity across the country. The part I’m involved in is ‘mapping’ all the AAC Services in the North of England, so that we’ll get a detailed understanding of exactly how AAC Services are arranged at the moment. Its vital to know the starting point before attempting to improve the way in which AAC Services are delivered across the country.

I have made contact with lots of services already, and I am very grateful for the time everyone has spent answering my questions on the phone and providing me with details of their services! I am finding it fascinating to learn about services in different parts of the region, and to see how services fit together within regions. When I hear about the difficulties that some of the services face, particularly in getting equipment funded, I really hope that all this information we are gathering will help to improve services for people who require AAC in the long run.