14 June 2012. Two leading charities have today announced plansto develop a national service for individuals in England with communication needsand ensure that a vital site in Oxford remains open.
The merger of the ACE Centres in Oxford and Oldham will ensure the Oxford site,which previously faced closure at the end of June, will continue to provide independentadvice, assessments and training to enable access to technology for individuals,including children, with significant communication needs. The move is to be financedby investment from the ACE Centre in Oldham, and will also use an existing grantfrom the Department for Education to develop national services providing supportin the areas of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology(AT).
Members of Parliament, including the Oxford Centre’s constituency MP Andrew Smith,have raised concerns about the closure of the Oxford site limiting access to specialistcommunications solutions for individuals with acute needs, their families and professionalswho support them.
The announcement follows the recent publication of the Government’s response tothe Special Educational Needs Green Paper, which confirmed funding to develop AACmodels nationally to tackle the under-provision of local and regional services,in relation to the estimated size of the population who require AAC services andcommunication aids.
Managers and Trustees of both Boards of the ACE Centres, who have pushed for a solution,have claimed the announcement will ensure the right to communicate is extended toas many people as possible in England. The sector-led plan has been welcomed bythe Department for Education.
Anna Reeves, Manager of ACE Centre North, said:
“Communication is not a privilege, but a right that is fundamental to an individual’squality of life. This merger, which has received welcome support from the Departmentfor Education, will help provide crucial support to children and adults in Englandwho have complex communication needs.”
“What we have done is to lay solid foundations for the provision of a national service.Both ACE Centres already have tremendous individual legacies, and today’s announcementwill allow us to build on our existing successes – ensuring that every individualneeding support has access to unrivalled independent assistance on how best to meettheir unique needs.”
Bill Nimmo, Chair of the Board of Trustee for the ACE Centre in Oxford, said:
“This is a vital and very positive step in the development of national service thatis best placed to provide advice and access to technology for both children andadults with communication needs.
“Many of individuals we’ve supported over the years have required very specialisedassistance. Unifying the two ACE Centres will allow us to develop our expertiseeven further, which can only be a good thing for the thousands of people in Englandwith communication needs.”
Andrew Smith, Member of Parliament for Oxford East, said:
“Saving ACE Oxford from closure is great news and an enormous relief for all thosewith acute communication needs relying on the remarkable expertise of the centre.It has been heartening to see the public support for this vital work. The mergerwith ACE North is an opportunity to strengthen provision in the future, giving hopeand life chances to people otherwise isolated by communication difficulties.”
About ACE Centre North and ACE Centre Oxford
1. ACE Centre North and ACE Centre Oxford provide independent adviceand information, assessments and training services to individuals who face communicationchallenges due to physical impairment, language disorder or learning disabilityand to their families and professionals who support them in the fields of Augmentativeand Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology (AT).
Department for Education Funding
2. The DfE are investing around £60 million in grant funding ayear over two years (2011-12 and 2012-13) to help support the delivery of key nationalpriorities for children, young people and families including for special educationalneeds and disability. The ACE Centre North receives a grant from the Departmentthrough this route (£205,000 in 2012-13) with the Oxford ACE Centre as a partner.This grant has been extended by the DfE by £75,000 in 2012-13.
3. The DfE are also helping to build capacity in the AAC sectorthrough grants to organisations with a proven track record of providing specialistAAC services at national or regional levels. Grants of up to £150,000 have beenmade available. Four grants have been awarded across regional areas (based on StrategicHealth Authority cluster regions): North of England (comprising North West, NorthEast and Yorkshire & Humber); Midlands and East (West Midlands, East Midlandsand East of England); South of England (South West, South Central and South EastCoast); and London. The grants run from April 2012 – March 2013. Further informationis available in Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needsand disability – progress and next steps www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/sen/a0075339/sengreenpaper
For further information or comment from Anna Reeves, please contact Chris Rogers on 020 7793 2536 / 07720 054189, or email Chris.Rogers@whitehouseconsulting.co.uk.