Fears over end to central funding for communications aids

An end to central funding for essential communication equipment could leave children with communication difficulties with nothing, disability campaigners have warned.

The Department for Education and Skill’s Communication Aids Project is due to end in March this year, with responsibility for providing support and equipment for disabled children transferring to children’s trusts across the country, although with no extra revenue.

CAP was set up to supplement local authority funding by providing additional equipment, such as voice output communication aids, to school-aged children with communication difficulties. The service has helped more than 4,000 children since 2002.

Although it was known that CAP was due to end, disability charity Scope said they had been “taken by surprise” that nothing had been planned for its replacement.

A spokesperson for the charity said it was extremely worrying that the government was looking to children’s trusts to provide this essential equipment when they had not even been established in many areas. Handing responsibility to children’s trusts would also thwart efforts to extend the service to cover a wider age range so that assistance could follow people seamlessly from childhood into further education or work.

“We had hoped that, during the four years that CAP has been in place, the government would look at implementing a joined up and integrated system,” he said. “It hasn’t done that and still isn’t doing that.”

Roger Berry, MP for Kingswood in Bristol, has tabled an early day motion calling on the government to establish a statutory right to communication equipment and for adequate funding to be ring-fenced “so that every person with a communication impairment in the UK can speak for themselves”.

The EDM, signed by more than 100 MPs, is backed by charities including Scope, RNIB, RNID and Mencap.

A spokesperson for the DfES insisted the government was “actively exploring” how to maintain the momentum generated by CAP.

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