Today, Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) released its latest report, ‘Access to energy for Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans’. The report explores energy access and prices for Romany Gypsy, Irish Traveller and nomadic communities, in the South East.
Using Freedom of Information requests, sent to all local authorities in the South East, the report found that:
- 97% of residents of sites managed by local authorities had no access to mains gas, with residents forced to purchase gas bottles instead;
- For 32% of the sites, local authorities confirmed they hold the electricity contract and sell the electricity onto residents as a third party;
- On 82% of the sites, residents were on prepayment meters (some directly to the supplier, some to the site owner).
A lack of access to mains gas means residents are forced instead to rely on incredibly expensive gas bottles to heat homes and cook food. Due to the rising price of gas, Gypsy and Traveller families can end up paying as much as £589 a month on gas bottles alone.
To help understand how households used energy and at what price, FFT surveyed 12 households on local authority sites, private sites, roadside camps and boats. Findings showed that:
- Households living on local authority sites, private sites, roadside camps, and liveaboard boaters, had no access to mains gas. Instead, households used gas bottles;
- Households living on roadside camps and liveaboard boaters had no access to mains electricity. Instead, households use other sources of power, predominantly generators;
- Households living on roadside camps and liveaboard boaters also used a range of alternative forms of energy such as wood-burners, multifuel stoves, and engines to power batteries for electricity;
- Four out of the six households on sites purchase electricity via the site owner.
The research also found that 10 out of 12 households surveyed were not eligible for the Government’s £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme grant, which is issued through the domestic account holders’ electricity supplier.
Households not linked to mains electricity, such as on roadside camps and liveaboard boaters, as well as those on permanent sites who purchase energy via the site owner, will not receive these payments.
The report, which can be read in full here, was undertaken as arrangements for energy use in caravans are often different to bricks and mortar accommodation.
Inflated costs have long been an issue for Gypsy and Traveller households, while the energy crisis continues to worsen an already tough situation.
The report recommends that individual households on socially-rented Gypsy and Traveller sites should be able to have a direct supply with an electricity company, as well as improving site access to a mains gas supply, leading to less reliance on expensive gas bottles.
Abbie Kirkby, Public Affairs and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers, said:
“This report highlights a range of deep-seated issues when it comes to energy access on Romany and Traveller sites, leading to eye-watering prices. This cannot and must not be allowed to continue.
Government and local authorities must urgently tackle the exclusion of many Romany and Traveller families from energy support schemes, as well as address the poor design and management of sites which lead to fuel poverty.”
Ivy Manning, Community Engagement Officer at Friends, Families and Travellers, also added:
“The energy crisis and its unequal impact on Romany, Irish Traveller and nomadic people is yet another entrenched inequality these communities face in the UK today.
The report clearly shows that more must be done to shield Gypsy and Traveller communities from fuel poverty, for now and for the future. No one should face the bleak choice of either staying warm, mould-free or feeding themselves.”
Notes for Editor
About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)
Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works to end racism and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and to protect the right to pursue a nomadic way of life.
Email: [email protected]
‘Access to energy for Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans’. Friends, Families and Travellers. December 2022. View here.
‘Addressing exclusions from the Energy Bills Support Scheme’. All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma. November 2022. Read letter.