Children face postcode lottery for communication aids

There is a postcode lottery in accessing electronic aids for children and young people with communication impairments, new research suggests.

Electronic aids can be vital for helping disabled young people communicate butanalysis of data has discovered "strong evidence" that a postcode lottery still exists for children and young people.

The research by Royal Holloway academic Joseph Reddington found that there was no provision of communication aids for children, young people or adults in a range of NHS regions across the country.

It showed that up to nine million people lived in places where augmented and alternative communication (AAC) devices were not purchased by an NHS trust.

And previous research estimated that more than 75,000 children and young people in the UK could benefit from some type of AAC.

Dr Reddington's research shows that in areas with similar-sized populations, NHS commissioners have different approaches to supplying AAC devices; with some found to be providing nothing while others of the same size offering good services.

He said: "In 2008 a review found that provision of services for children and adults with communication impairment was 'unacceptable' with families perceiving there to be a postcode lottery and service providers acknowledging that national coverage is variable and ad hoc. This work confirms that the postcode lottery that Bercow mentioned is very real."

Katie Holmes, research manager at Communication Matters, said: "Communication Matters believes every child has the right to a voice and we are currently campaigning to improve the future commissioning of AAC services for adults and children in England."
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