Over a number of years, Communication Matters has been successful in lobbying for specialised AAC to be well funded via NHS England. We strongly encourage anyone concerned with AAC to develop good relationships in their region, to support our campaign to improve services for anyone who finds communication difficult because they have little or no clear speech.

We still need your support, however, to ensure that local commissioners in your area establish a comprehensive coverage of local AAC services across their region. We would, therefore, like you to contact your local Health and Wellbeing Board, Healthwatch representative and build (or in some cases maintain) a constructive relationship with your local MP.

To support this process, Communication Matters have worked with the Whitehouse Consultancy to update our Toolkit which gives all the information you need to make difference in your local area.

Lobbying Archive 2013

During Prime Minister’s Questions on 13th March 2013, in response to a question from Paul Maynard MP, David Cameron committed the Government to making sure the NHS will make AAC available to more people in future. Paul Maynard MP later led a debate in the House of Commons on Augmentative and Alternative Communication Services where he spoke passionately about AAC and the need for greater support from the Government. A day before the debate, Paul Maynard MP and Communication Matters met with Care Minister Norman Lamb MP to discuss a number of key issues relating to the future commissioning of AAC.

Following the debate and the meeting, huge progress was made, leading to NHS England confirming that the identified level of historical spend is “inaccurate and inadequate” (£3.5 million) and that a bid has been submitted for £15 million for the 2014-15 financial year to NHS England. Previously NHS England had not accepted the level of identified need which had meant that AAC services were due to face a significant shortfall in funding over future years.

Update on AAC Services Debate & Meeting with Health Minister

On 6 June 2013, Conservative MP Paul Maynard led a debate in the House of Commons on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Services. Paul is a strong supporter of Communication Matters and during the debate he spoke passionately around AAC and the need for greater support from the Government. He raised concerns about the complexity and confusion around the structure for specialised commissioning for equipment, noting that AAC is one of five areas for which complex disability equipment is to be commissioned nationally. Paul also complained about underfunding of services, noting that 0.014% of the population currently use a powered aid when the total need is estimated to be 0.05% – “about 3.5 times what is currently being funded”. He said that while he was not necessarily asking for more money to be spent, he did say that NHS England should “begin from a sensible starting point when making its decisions”. He also stressed the concern that NHS England were using historical budgets for specialised AAC provision and called for more accurate figures to be used.

In response, the Health Minister Norman Lamb set out the background and confirmed the expectations of NHS England in relation to AAC, saying that it will draw on the recommendations of the Bercow Review and the Communication Champion, Jean Gross. The Minister said that work is ongoing for setting the budget for commissioning AAC services and that non-NHS organisations could bid for AAC services. Lamb also discussed the role of Health and Wellbeing Boards, saying that they must have “have particular regard for hard-to-reach groups and those with complex conditions which will require more specialised health services”. Lamb acknowledged that “the ability to speak and communicate is a pretty basic human right, and that it should be recognised as such”, while he went on to praise Communication Matters and its recent Shining a Light on AAC research study.

A day before the debate, Paul Maynard MP and Catherine Harris, Chair of Communication Matters, met with Norman Lamb MP to introduce Communication Matters and discuss a number of key issues relating to the future commissioning of AAC. Communication Matters are going to follow up relevant issues with the Minister and ensure pressure is maintained on the Government, so that the Prime Minister’s promise that more children and adults will be provided with communication aids by the NHS becomes a reality.