The stunning effect that Strictly has had on South Tyneside - thanks to inspirational Rose

The ‘Strictly’ effect is having a fantastic impact on services for the deaf and hard of hearing across South Tyneside.

Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 9:00 am

More people are now deaf aware and demand for sign language services is increasing.

The Strictly tour, which is now underway, features celebrities including Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice.

But they are already a hit on South Tyneside after winning the TV Strictly show in 2021 – and leaving an important legacy.

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Local charity Vision and Hearing Support (VHS) helps people to have control over their lives and others better understand the impact of sensory loss.

In South Tyneside and Gateshead, more than 65,500 people are deaf or hard of hearing.

Latest figures show that in South Tyneside, in 20/21, the group had 2,980 contacts with 903 clients – and 95% of clients reported improved emotional health and wellbeing.

And 92% had improved physical well being, while 80% felt less socially isolated and 93% were more confident and empowered.

Enablement officer Rebecca Miller, said: “Rose has had a big impact on reducing the stigma of deafness and hearing loss, that it is nothing to be ashamed of and pushing the issues that have largely been ignored to the forefront of people’s minds.

"At VHS we provide equipment to assist those with hearing loss, to ensure they can still be a part of society and reduce the isolation felt by those who have hearing loss and are deaf.”

Members of the South Tyneside deaf community have praised the Strictly effect.

Natalie Swinburn said: “Strictly has definitely made people more deaf aware. When I go to my local shop they now sign “Thank you” as the shopkeeper told me they loved Strictly. Small things like that are appreciated.”

Vicky Sowden said she has been “approached by more people than I ever have before, saying that sign language is brilliant and asking for my opinion on Rose’s dancing and where they can learn sign language”.

Julia Sanderson said: “I was at a shop and someone signed to me asking ‘How can I help you?’ It is nice to see people are gaining more confidence in approaching deaf people, we don’t bite!”

Janice Morris, who is registered sight impaired but has no hearing loss, said: “When they danced and the music stopped, it brought me to tears - in fact, I sobbed.

"That was the epitome of how deaf people live in our community; doing all that… it really made me think you never know what someone else going through.”

Anne Hetherington, cabinet member for Independence and Wellbeing at South Tyneside Council, said: “When Rose Ayling-Ellis won the Strictly final it was a clear signal to the wider world that disability is no barrier to success.

“Through the funding of the South Tyneside Sensory Service we make sure that local people with hearing or sight loss or both can access the support they need to stay in control of their lives and enjoy a quality of life that other people take for granted.

“Rose’s participation in such a popular show has not only encouraged those with hearing impairment to challenge themselves to try new activities. She has also raised the levels of understanding among the wider public about what it is like to live with sensory loss.”

A huge range of services are available thanks to VHS:

Its Welfare Benefits service increased client’s income by £123,705 in 2020/21.

The VHS Vision Support team offers support with mobile phones, tablets, apps and innovative devices such as Alexa – as well as a lending library where clients can try before they buy equipment.

Rebecca added: “For those who identify as deaf and are British Sign Language users, just like Rose, we provide a British Sign Language service. So for those who’s first language is BSL, we translate letters, make phone calls on their behalf and support them in making decisions for themselves.”

The VHS Enablement Team supports clients in their daily lives. The work is carried out under the Care Act 2014 and is delivered through a contract on behalf of South Tyneside Council.

There’s also a one-to-one counselling service, and a Living Well with Sight Loss programme which invites clients, their families, and carers to meet others living with sensory loss to share experiences and plan for the future.

The next Living Well with Sight Loss programme sessions are on February 9 and February 16.

Visual Impairment Awareness training is available to organisations, businesses, and professionals to increase their understanding of sight loss and how they can best offer help.

To find out more about the services available, visit the VHS website at www.visionandhearingsupport.org or its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/visionandhearingsupport

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