Lets Loop Southampton and Healthwatch Southampton has teamed up with Southampton City Council, NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group (SCCCG) and GO! Southampto to help provide hearing loop systems for small businesses and GP surgeries across the city for free.
The partnership, launched today, sees £54,000 worth of funding available for small businesses and GP surgeries to use to install hearing loops designed to benefit those with hearing loss conditions.
The move is part of an ambition to make Southampton the first city in the UK to have a hearing loop system in every public building. Thanks to the new funding pot, that dream could move a step closer to reality, with potential for an additional 200 premises to have the systems installed.
“It is estimated that around 33,500 – one in six – Southampton residents are affected by hearing loss – and this number is expected to rise still further over the coming year,” said Giles Semper from GO! Southampton, the city’s Business Improvement District (BID).
“In 2017, an audit revealed that just 13 percent of businesses had hearing loops installed, so we are delighted to be increasing this number significantly – thanks to this joint initiative.”
The move to open up £54,000 worth of funding follows a successful pilot scheme, run by GO! Southampton, during which equipment was fitted at three business within the BID area.
One of those to benefit was printing firm Colour Company in London Road. Kevin West from the company said: “Hearing loss conditions are a lot more common than people think and we have a lot of customers affected by them. Before we had the loop it was difficult for those customers to hear us properly, which we appreciate must be so frustrating. Now, they can hear us so much better and they’ve really welcomed our installation of the system. It’s a great idea and every business should have one.”
Other businesses to benefit from the pilot are W J French & Son in Bedford Place and Nousha Lounge in East Street.
Welcoming the scheme is Lets Loop Southampton – a voluntary organisation aiming to make Southampton the first city in England to have a hearing loop in every public space.
Founder of the group, Steve Beal, has had a hearing loss since the age of 11, which has deteriorated over the last 15 years.
“One of the big problems deaf or hard of hearing people suffer with is entering shops and restaurants in public buildings,” said Steve. “Most have music playing but don’t have a loop system – and the staff haven’t had deaf awareness training.
“Thankfully, GO! Southampton has agreed to finance the installation of loops, via a grant scheme, with money also donated from NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group and Southampton City Council. The city is likely to be the first in the country to be looped – thanks to the support of these organisations. A big thanks to Health Watch Southampton too, which has been hugely supportive of our drive to make Southampton the first city in the UK to have a hearing loop system in every public building.”
Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Homes and Culture at Southampton City Council added: “It is a pleasure to be able to support this initiative to make Southampton more accessible for people with a hearing loss and it will provide a step towards Southampton becoming the first city in the UK to have a hearing loop system in every public building. I would encourage small businesses and GP surgeries to apply for the grant to help them to support their customers or patients with hearing loss in a more personal way.”
James Rimmer, Managing Director at NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We were hugely impressed with the work of the Let’s Loop Southampton group in its campaign for more hearing loops in the city to support people who are hard of hearing or deaf. The group compiled an audit of existing loops in GP practices, and this led to the CCG agreeing to put in place funding for new loops in GP practices which need them. We are delighted to be supporting this project.”
Businesses across Southampton are invited to apply for a hearing loop by visiting www.southampton.gov.uk/hearingloopgrant