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Empowering Technologies
Industry News : 14/06/2012
ACE Centre, Oxford saved from closure

Merger of ACE Centres in Oxford and Oldham ensures Oxford will continue to provide advice, assessments and training

Communication Matters has announced that the "Oxford communication technology support centre to remain open following creation of national specialist ACE organisation.

Two leading charities have today announced plans to develop a national service for individuals in England with communication needs and ensure that a vital site in Oxford remains open.

The merger of the ACE Centres in Oxford and Oldham will ensure the Oxford site, which previously faced closure at the end of June, will continue to provide independent advice, assessments and training to enable access to technology for individuals, including children, with significant communication needs. The move is to be financed by investment from the ACE Centre in Oldham, and will also use an existing grant from the Department for Education to develop national services providing support in the areas of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology (AT).

Members of Parliament, including the Oxford Centre’s constituency MP Andrew Smith, have raised concerns about the closure of the Oxford site limiting access to specialist communications solutions for individuals with acute needs, their families and professionals who support them.

The announcement follows the recent publication of the Government's response to the Special Educational Needs Green Paper, which confirmed funding to develop AAC models nationally to tackle the under-provision of local and regional services, in relation to the estimated size of the population who require AAC services and communication aids.

Managers and Trustees of both Boards of the ACE Centres, who have pushed for a solution, have claimed the announcement will ensure the right to communicate is extended to as many people as possible in England. The sector-led plan has been welcomed by the Department for Education.

Anna Reeves, Manager of ACE Centre North, said:

"Communication is not a privilege, but a right that is fundamental to an individual’s quality of life. This merger, which has received welcome support from the Department for Education, will help provide crucial support to children and adults in England who have complex communication needs."

"What we have done is to lay solid foundations for the provision of a national service. Both ACE Centres already have tremendous individual legacies, and today's announcement will allow us to build on our existing successes – ensuring that every individual needing support has access to unrivalled independent assistance on how best to meet their unique needs."

Bill Nimmo, Chair of the Board of Trustee for the ACE Centre in Oxford, said:

"This is a vital and very positive step in the development of national service that is best placed to provide advice and access to technology for both children and adults with communication needs.

"Many of individuals we've supported over the years have required very specialised assistance. Unifying the two ACE Centres will allow us to develop our expertise even further, which can only be a good thing for the thousands of people in England with communication needs."

Andrew Smith, Member of Parliament for Oxford East, said:

"Saving ACE Oxford from closure is great news and an enormous relief for all those with acute communication needs relying on the remarkable expertise of the centre. It has been heartening to see the public support for this vital work. The merger with ACE North is an opportunity to strengthen provision in the future, giving hope and life chances to people otherwise isolated by communication difficulties."
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