Andrew Smith MP has welcomed news that the ACE Centre has been saved.
Andrew said: “This is great news – a huge relief to all who depend on the Centre, and recognition of its vital work in unlocking the isolation of people with acute communication difficulties”. The Oxford ACE Centre, which had faced closure at the end of June, will now remain open thanks to the merger with the Oldham ACE Centre and funding from the Department for Education.
The merger of the two Centres will ensure that the Oxford site will continue to be able to provide independent advice, assessments and training to enable access to technology for individuals, including children, with significant communication needs.
Continued funding for the Oxford ACE Centre will be provided by investment form the ACE Centre in Oldham, and will also use a grant from the Department for Education to develop national services providing support in the areas of Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Assistive Technology, extended by £75,000 for 2012-013.
Ever since the centre was threatened with closure Andrew has worked closely with the Oxford ACE Centre and has lobbied the government hard for urgent action to save the Centre, including raising its plight in the Commons at Prime Minister's Questions and speaking directly with Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove MP.
Andrew 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."
Managers and Trustees of both Boards of the ACE Centres, who have pushed for a solution, say 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.
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 a 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."