Some of the UK’s leading assistive technology companies and special needs service providers have agreed to support the launch of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on assistive technology (AT)
The proposed APPG is the initiative of the ACE Centre, a UK charity and service provider specialising in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and AT, and Inclusive Technology, an award-winning AT developer and supplier.
APPGs are informal group of Members of both Houses of Parliament – the Commons and the Lords – who join together to pursue a particular topic or interest. An APPG is essentially run by and for Members although many groups involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities. APPGs are bound by strict rules and are not official parliamentary bodies.
Also present were representatives of the British Assistive Technology Association, Call Scotland, Consilium Communications, the Disabled Living Foundation, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Consultant and lobbyist Phil Woolas, who has a long history of involvement with the special needs sector and is Chair of Trustees at the ACE Centre, chaired the meeting.
The APPG also received a ringing endorsement from the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner, who took time out from her busy schedule to attend the meeting and pledge her support. Rayner has spoken on previous occasions of the special needs of her sons Ryan and Charlie and the support they have received.
The meeting identified several issues for the APPG to address. These include overall funding for AT; the absence of ring-fenced funding in mainstream schools, which the vast majority of children with SEN attend; and the lack of training for teachers and support staff using AT, which often leads to hardware and software being shelved or under-utilised.
Following a presentation the meeting agreed to appoint Policy Connect to progress the APPG’s registration and act as its secretariat. The next stage will be to hold an inaugural AGM on the parliamentary estate to elect officers.
An APPG must have at least four officers and each of them must be an MP or Peer. At least one officer must be from the government party or parties and at least one from the main opposition party.
Martin Littler, Executive Chairman of Inclusive Technology, said:
This is a great initiative from Anna Reeves at the ACE Centre. We already have many friends in the Commons and the Lords. This is a chance to unite them in transforming the lives of the children who face the greatest challenges. The APPG will also inform all members, including future Ministers, with up-to-the-minute briefings on how technology can help those with complex learning difficulties and disabilities.