Sarah Mann, Director at Friends Families and Travellers
In June, the government announced the launch of a national strategy to tackle inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. After years of campaigning for this, we are delighted by the announcement, however, if time has taught us any lessons we know that the devil will be in the detail. Here are four tests the national strategy must pass to be a success:
- Government officials must meaningfully engage with members of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
At the launch of their April report, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP highlighted that members of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are rarely considered in policies and strategies. This means that even when well-meaning policies and strategies are developed, they often do not make a real change in the lives of members of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It is vital that in developing the strategy, government officials create opportunities for meaningful engagement which recognises the agency, wisdom and insight held by members of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
- The Government must allocate the resources needed to deliver real change
During the Women and Equalities Committee enquiry into the inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, we repeatedly heard of pilot projects and small pots funding offered to deliver small scale projects. As part of the UK’s LGBT Action Plan, the government committed to make £4.5 million available to deliver commitments in the action plan. If the strategy to tackle inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities is to be a success, there must be a clear assessment made of cost to deliver the commitments and money made available to ensure that they can be delivered.
- The strategy must have high level commitment and clear lines of accountability
The 2012 Coalition Government produced a report from the ministerial working group on tackling inequalities experienced by Gypsies and Travellers. The report outlined 28 commitments “for which Government will be held to account”. Yet, in the absence of any real accountability mechanisms, the majority of the commitments in the report have not been achieved. If the strategy is to be a success, then there must be strong commitment at a senior level of government and clear lines of accountability in delivering the commitments set out. This is especially important as the strategy is being developed in politically turbulent times.
- Address the root causes of inequality in Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
Whether we’re speaking to policy makers about health or education, financial inclusion or criminal justice, the conversation often comes back to two of the biggest challenges faced by members of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities – the high levels of discrimination faced and a lack of places where people can live. We cannot ignore that the strategy is being developed against the backdrop of government efforts to criminalise nomadic families who have no place to go. If the strategy is to be a success, it must tackle accommodation issues head on and lay out how the government intends to address well-evidenced widespread discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers in spatial planning. Further to this, the strategy must make clear commitments which address how it will prevent and address discrimination and hate crime against members of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
From our cross-government policy and campaigning work, we know that work is already underway to prepare the national strategy to tackle inequalities faced by Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities and we are encouraged by the dedication and openness of those who are at the helm of developing the strategy. We hope to work closely with government officials in developing the strategy and will do all in our power to support members of Gypsy, Roma and Travellers to have their voices heard throughout the development of the strategy.
Sarah Mann has worked for Friends, Families and Travellers for twelve years and as Director for the last two years. Sarah previously managed community charity “the Tarner Project” and before that worked in Local Government and the National Trust in community development, land management and cultural history, bringing experience and context of nomadism in the UK.