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Commencement of Duty to Provide AAC in Scotland

by Gillian McNeill

on Mon Mar 19, 2018

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Today is the commencement of the law that entitles people in Scotland to communication equipment and the support required to use it. Often referred to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), if you need a communication aid, you should now be able to get one. What does this mean for users, practitioners and families?

On 3rd March 2016, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation which entitles people with communication difficulties to be provided with communication equipment. The legislation says:

46A Provision of communication equipment

The Scottish Ministers must, to such extent as they consider necessary to meet all reasonable requirements, provide or secure the provision of —

  1. communication equipment, and
  2. support in using that equipment,

to any person who has lost their voice or has difficulty speaking.

Over the past two years, a Scottish Government team has been working with AAC users, NHS Boards, Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland (a national group of AAC service providers); the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists; and MND Scotland; amongst other groups, to make this statutory right a reality for children and adults in Scotland who need communication aids and equipment.

The detail of exactly how people who need communication equipment and support will get it, has yet to be published.

We understand from Scottish Government that guidance on what communication equipment and support means, will be published in May, so that people with communication support needs will know exactly what equipment and resources this includes, what support will be provided, and that a Pathway for provision will be published, so that it is clear how it will be provided.

We are looking forward to this information becoming available, because access to communication aids and support to use it, is still uneven in Scotland.

AAC user Craig, demonstrates how much having access to equipment and support can impact a person's life.

My life has completely changed for the better. (Craig, Airdrie)

To learn more about Craig's story (you'll need access to Facebook to watch this video)

This new legislation follows on from the Right to Speak Report in 2012 and the subsequent project described in the Now Hear Me Report of 2015. 

In 2012, Right to Speak noted that:

evidence from service providers suggests that provision across Scotland is inconsistent and does not always meet the needs of people with communication difficulties, particularly those requiring high-tech devices.

Progress was made through the £4 million Right to Speak project, but nevertheless, by the end of it, the Now Hear Me report (p109), concluded with the recommendation that AAC service providers should:

implement the use of local AAC care pathways to ensure equitable and timeous provision of equipment and support for people who require to use AAC.

This particular goal of the project was still only 80% complete at its completion.

CALL Scotland, through our partnerships with local authorities, provides assessment and support for learners with additional support needs who require Assisted Technology, and this includes AAC equipment. We have been contributing to the development of the Scottish Government guidance and we'll be looking forward to the publication of the documents to help us all move towards a Scotland where:

Individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) are included, free from discrimination, and live in an environment that recognises their needs and adapts accordingly.

(Right to Speak, 2012)

Tags: aac, legislation

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