£4 million to improve alternative communication
An extra £4 million pounds is to be given to health boards to improve services and provide new equipment for people who have alternative and augmentative communication needs.
Thousands of people across Scotland will now be able to benefit from the kinds of equipment which helps Professor Stephen Hawking communicate.
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson announced the funding to support the roll-out of new guidance to improve services for people who need augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). AAC equipment enables people with difficulty expressing themselves using speech to communicate. Equipment can range from high tech computer equipment with specialist software, to low tech picture communication books.
The “Right to Speak” guidance is being launched jointly with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
The guidance takes forward the recommendations of a Short Life Working Group set up in 2009 to agree short, medium and long term goals to deliver better outcomes for people who need these services.
The funding, which is being provided over the next three financial years, will be provided to health boards to buy equipment to meet current and future demand and to set up quality, sustainable AAC services in partnership with education and community care services.
Some of the funding will also be provided to NHS Education for Scotland to develop education and training for NHS staff.
Announcing the funding during a visit to Capability Scotland’s Corseford School in Renfrew, Mr Matheson said: “I am delighted to be able to announce this £4 million funding, which I am sure will make a real difference to people who have difficulty expressing themselves using speech and their families. The kinds of equipment and speech and language therapy support services it will buy are vital for thousands of people in Scotland
“I’m also very pleased that we will be able to take forward the recommendations of the working group, which I’m confident will make a real difference to the lives of those people who need these services.”
Kim Hartley, Scotland Officer at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) said:
“We are delighted with the “Right to Speak” recommendations and the new funding they come with. This clear direction and money together has the potential to be life changing for the 2,500 people in Scotland who need quality AAC services to speak with their loved ones, to learn, to get in to work and to generally enjoy life.
“Problems with speech and language can imprison an individual and severely limit their quality of life. We applaud the Scottish government for literally putting their money where their mouth is by leading the way in recognising every individual’s right to communicate.”
Capability Scotland’s Chief Executive, Dana O’Dwyer, said:
“Many of the adults and children who use Capability Scotland’s education, employment and care services rely on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. They use them to learn and make choices, as well as to communicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas.
“The difficulties faced by AAC users inspired our long-running campaign with the RCSLT and Augmentative Communication in Practice. We’re proud that this has lead to improved access to high quality AAC provision across Scotland.
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s new guidelines and funding for AAC provision and are delighted to welcome the Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson to Capability Scotland’s Corseford School. During his visit he’ll get the chance to hear from disabled pupils the difference the improvements in AAC provision will make to their lives.”
Funding per board over the three financial years 2012-15:
Ayrshire & Arran - £184,408
Borders - £52,081
Dumfries & Galloway - £75,008
Fife - £171,199
Forth Valley - £136,560
Grampian - £239,232
Greater Glasgow & Clyde - £604,060
Highland - £157,244
Lanarkshire - £272,873
Lothian - £366,822
Orkney - £10,466
Shetland - £11,213
Tayside - £195,621
Western Isles - £15,200
NHS NES - £1,508,000