I heard Monday’s parliamentary debate on Gypsies and Travellers with dismay but not surprise.
A few MPs grasped the wider issues intelligently but most used six hours of parliamentary time to moan about the 1% of Gypsies and Travellers who are homeless and daily pushed from place to place. Their solution? “Move them quicker.” Moving families from place to place more quickly just results in more “encampments” over a wider area and would be a waste of Police and Local Authority money and time. The unhelpful comparisons with Ireland made during the debate would only be relevant within the context of a national strategy addressing health, education and accommodation – which the UK lacks.
Happily, the solutions are available and well-known. As identified by Gypsy and Traveller organisations, some Police and Crime Commissioners and Local Authorities who met in Surrey this week:
- Build transit sites so homeless families have somewhere to go (many areas have none)
- Build enough permanent sites as directed by DCLG – there is currently a huge national shortfall.
- In the meantime, use “negotiated stopping” which allows local authorities to direct encampments to more suitable areas, provide rubbish collection and sanitation and lets kids go to school!
Leadership and political backbone is needed to get this working. Are you ready to step up Secretary of State Sajid Javid MP? Gypsy and Traveller organisations and community members are on hand and ready to help!
Friends, Families and Travellers
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If you would like to find out more information about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and Accommodation and Planning in the United Kingdom, please visit our Policy and Publications section.
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