1.1 The Legislative Duty
The Scottish Government recognises that being able to communicate and having freedom of expression is a basic human right – one which is essential to our physical and mental health and our social wellbeing. Communication equipment, and support in using it, can make a real difference to people's lives and makes sure they have a voice to be heard.
This is why from 19 March 2018, NHS Boards in Scotland now have a legislative duty to provide or secure communication equipment and the support in using that equipment, often referred to as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). This duty applies to children and adults, from all care groups who have lost their voice or have difficulty speaking. There is no comparable law anywhere else in the UK.
This commitment to people who need and use communication equipment and support builds on the earlier work the Scottish Government launched in A Right to Speak in 2012 and Now Hear Me (2015 NHS Education for Scotland), which set out a vision for Scotland where people who use AAC are fully included in our society.
The duty is exercisable by Health Boards and one Special Health Board, the State Hospitals Board for Scotland. Where in the Health Board context delegated arrangements are in place under the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014, these delegated arrangements will apply to the new duty. If they are not under the auspices of delegated arrangements then the duty will rest with the Health Board.
1.2 Background to This Report
Following commencement of the legislation, the former Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt MSP attended the National AAC Advisory Group (See Annex A for information on this group), to thank all members for their contributions, to hear the views of stakeholders, including contributions from a person who uses AAC and to collectively agree the priorities going forward.
As proposed by the then Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt MSP in 2018, this report sets out to capture the activities, actions and progress of the Scottish Government, health boards who hold the duty, and wider stakeholders in supporting the legislation. It includes input from National AAC Advisory Group members, who represent health boards, Integration Joint Boards, local government, professional organisations, people who use AAC, health professionals and third sector providers. Engagement with other Scottish Government policy teams with a relevant interest has also taken place and those activities are reflected within this report.