High number of Roma children with hearing problems

Sheffield Children’s Hospital is treating a high number of Roma youngsters who have hearing problems.

Over 100 Roma children with hearing impairments are being seen by the hospital - one in nine of the total number of patients at the hearing department are from the Roma community.

The hospital says it’s possible the conditions are genetic as a significant number of children have other family members with hearing loss.

Suzanne Carrick, specialist paediatric audiologist at the Children’s Hospital, said: "Hearing Services supports over 900 children and young people with hearing loss, many of whom are from the Roma community.

“All children have investigations into the cause of their hearing loss, but there has been no specific studies in this population. We know a significant number of patients have other family members with hearing loss, possibly suggesting a genetic component.

“Fitting hearing aids is important to enable access to speech sounds in order to maximise communication and to optimise speech development. Effective amplification enables young children to fully access educational and social opportunities, which are key in securing positive outcomes later in life."

Sheffield Council says it, along with schools, are supporting the Roma children.

In a report to councillors, officers say: “One example of this is the unit which has been set up at Owler Brook Primary School, jointly organised and funded by the school and Sheffield Council, where 25 pupils with medium to profound hearing impairment are taught daily by a specialist teacher.

“Schools, specialist services and Sheffield Children’s Hospital continue to work in partnership to address other special educational needs or disabilities which affect Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families.”

The council is providing a range of educational support to Gypsy, Roma and Travelling families, with extra focus on Roma pupils since many of them have arrived, mainly from Slovakia, over recent years.

Community, school and health issues in east Sheffield are a focus. Officers say: “This is a targeted project aimed at the neighbourhoods with the most acute impacts on the provision of local services linked to recent migration.

“The neighbourhoods included in this project are Fir Vale, Firth Park, Pitsmoor, Page Hall, Grimesthorpe, Darnall and Tinsley. Two of the community development workers are based in local schools in Page Hall and Tinsley.”

The council is working alongside a number of other organisations to address “challenges” regarding Roma children’s engagement with school.

A council-funded project recruits and trains minority ethnic young people, including Roma, on placements in schools. This has led to a significant increase of Roma teaching assistants in schools.

Workshops are held twice a year for all services and schools which have links with the Roma community. Another team is focusing on improving the quality of teaching for pupils who speak English as an additional language.

And there are a wide range of services to teach adults English, literacy and maths including classes at Page Hall and Fir Vale.

Officers say: “Many schools with cohorts of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils have developed translation and liaison services which have improved communication and support to families.

“Traveller support teachers work with children on designated traveller sites at Lodge Moor and Halfway.”