Roma Advisory Service
We have been privileged to work within Roma communities since 2001. Our current focus is on supporting Roma communities within the UK focussing around Health care, Education and general support dependant on the community’s needs.
We recently launched our new advisory service, based on our teams’ professional heritage of working with Roma communities.
We have been leading in our field for over 17 years and have successfully developed and implemented a medical clinic, a second chance schooling system, a foster care system, two residential homes, a therapy centre and a counselling service for local maternity hospitals.
Our two senior staff Sarah Wade (CEO & Co-Founder) and Dr Ramiz Momeni (Director & Co-Founder) respectively have seventeen years’ experience living and working with the Roma in Romania. They have successfully implemented and managed projects on the ground in Romania and are now based in the UK to oversee and manage the implementation of UK based projects. There are three Romanian speaking team members who work in the UK and a further senior staff team member in Romania who has experience of managing the social services, health care and educational teams.
We are keen to develop knowledge and understanding of this vulnerable, hard-to- reach community to further develop cohesion and inclusion for the Roma. We have therefore developed a bespoke advisory service that can be tailored to the needs of the professionals within your organisation to ensure that approaches to working with the Roma are inclusive and prioritise increasing engagement and participation.
Humanitas’ Professional heritage with the Roma
We started our work in Romania in 2001. Our senior team worked and lived in Romania for 17 years developing and implementing health care, educational and social projects within Roma communities. These communities proved to be challenging environments in which to work and required us to adopt a flexible and creative approach that would empower individuals to make lasting change. It took considerable dedication and commitment by the team to engage with communities who have suffered years of discrimination, persecution and social exclusion.
Our medical clinic was situated in one of the largest Roma communities in the local area, pertaining to over 3000 Roma. This community had the highest child abandonment rate in the county of Bihor, so the focus of the Clinic was on family planning, health care services and support for new mothers. The medical clinic was staffed full time by a family doctor, gynaecologist, two nurses, a social worker, a family planning counsellor and a receptionist. In addition to this, the clinic ran special treatment weeks with volunteer doctors from the UK including a team of cardio, orthopaedic and plastic surgeons who would provide free medical consultations and treatment.
The clinic also provided access to a family doctor unit which offered free medical consultations, medication and preventive and prophylactic vaccines. In addition to this, the clinic was home to a gynaecology unit which offered free consultations and medication; a range of contraception choices; pregnancy support and pre/post-natal check-ups. The service also incorporated a family planning centre that delivered contraceptive education.
Counselling in maternity hospitals.
The highest level of child abandonment in Romania happens in the local maternity hospitals as soon as the mother has given birth and over 90% of these women are Roma. Our response to this problem was to set up a counselling service within the maternity hospital which linked to the organisation’s family support programme. We were the first organisation to be given authority to work within the maternity hospital in the county of Bihor. Our counsellor would spend time with the new mothers pre and post birth, this counselling would focus on the mother and baby relationship to prevent the abandonment of the child. This would also include family planning options where the mother could enter a long-term contraception programme to prevent further unwanted pregnancies.
If the mother wished to take her baby home then our social services team would carry out a family evaluation. The family would then have access to the Humanitas family support programme, which would offer bespoke support to the family - dependant on their need. Families usually received support for 6-12 months, however there were also families who Humanitas continued to work with for an additional year if the need was great. Our counselling team also provided ‘new mum’ packages which were provided to the mother when leaving the hospital and would be tailored to the baby and mothers needs.
We developed and implemented Second Chance Schooling for Roma adults which was supported with job opportunities at the end of the course. This was an accelerated educational course that ran part time over two years. At the end of the course the adults who completed their exams received an educational certificate which was recognised by the government, enabling them to legally enter employment. The engagement rate for this programme exceeded that of the government’s adult education programme participation rate.
Social Services Department and Family Support
The Humanitas family support team focussed on both the welfare of the newborn baby and mother and took a holistic approach to supporting the family. Each family would need to agree to specific stipulations for support to continue; the main requests were for their children to be in full time education (which was supported by the team) and for one of the parents to either be attending Second Chance Schooling or to be in employment. The support that we offered to the families would range from assistance with completing documentation (the organisation ensured that all families had birth certificates for their children and ID cards for the adults, resulting in them receiving financial support from the government) to legal counselling, reintegrating and reinstating children and teenagers into an education system and sourcing jobs for adults. In addition to this, we would provide emotional support, educational support and material goods such as wood heaters, food, furniture or other necessities when required.
Our extensive work with the Roma has highlighted to us the need for the ongoing strategies of inclusion for this vulnerable, hard to reach community. We are driven to develop inclusion and integration for Roma communities locally, nationally and internationally, a consequence of which, we believe, can be to affect real and sustainable change.
Safe Homes was established in 2005 and comprises two residential homes for orphaned and abandoned children with disabilities. The homes house up to sixteen children who are cared for by live-in foster parents, with support from a physiotherapist, doctor and social worker.
Many of these children need one-to-one care, which is provided by two sets of foster parents and additional staff working within the homes on a full-time basis. Due to the children’s disabilities and behavioural problems it has not been possible to place them with foster care families. Safe Homes has proved to be a perfect solution, allowing children to grow in a loving family environment with access to all the facilities and therapy they need.
The Humanitas Therapy Centre was established in 2005 as a key resource in the rehabilitation and development of children with special needs living in the care of Humanitas. The therapy centre provides individually tailored daily/weekly therapy sessions run by qualified staff. Since 2010 the centre has also been open for use by disabled children living in the surrounding communities as it is the only one if its kind in the region.