A report released today, Friday 5th April 2019, by the Women and Equalities Committee outlines the ‘stark’ inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK and calls on the government to address these. In the report, the government accepts that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people “are among the most disadvantaged people in the country”. However, the report highlights that little progress has been made by the government to address this in the past decade.
The report outlines a series of recommendations to address inequalities in healthcare, education, discrimination and more. However, the Women and Equalities Committee have been criticised for the absence of any recommendations related to the chronic national shortage of Gypsy and Traveller sites. Commenting on this decision, Abbie Kirkby, Advice and Policy Manager at Friends Families and Travellers said,
“The omission of site provision is a glaring gap in an otherwise useful report. The chronic shortage of places where Gypsies and Travellers can live is intrinsically linked to the stark health and educational inequalities and social exclusion faced by these communities. This absolutely must be addressed.”
In the report, the Women and Equalities Committee call for the Cabinet Office to create a specific work stream within the Race Disparity Unit which would work closely with Government departments to ensure that they are making progress in delivering upon a strategy to tackle the inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Commenting on this, Zoe Matthews, Strategic Advisor at Friends Families and Travellers said,
“It is essential that the Government keeps civil servants accountable to delivering real change. Too often reports on the inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are left to gather dust on a shelf while communities suffer. We need strong leadership and accountability.”
In response to the report, Sarah Mann, Director of Friends Families and Travellers commented,
“There are a number of strong and clear recommendations which the Women and Equalities Committee have made which have the potential to address inequalities faced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. We will be using all of the tools at our disposal to call on the Government to deliver upon these.”
“We would put the kids to sleep some nights, receive an eviction notice to leave before morning and have to wake them up in the middle of the night and move. We might have to do a 25 mile school run depending on where we could stop. It’s physically and emotionally draining – none of us were getting sleep. Sometimes we would drop the kids off at school after an eviction and they wouldn’t know where they’d be going to at 3 o’clock.”
Anita, from the Irish Traveller community
“I’ve worked in education. I’ve seen so many ways that schools aren’t supporting Gypsy and Traveller students. Schools expect some Gypsy and Traveller students to fit into a framework which is alien to them. I worked with a student who had ADHD and the school couldn’t understand why they weren’t making progress when all they wanted was to be active. Not everyone learns sitting still. I’d like to see schools make more of an effort to support young Gypsies and Travellers to feel proud, with modern role models, not stuck in history.”
Dominic, from the Romany Gypsy community
“We need more sites. Our families are growing and we need places to live. Life has improved so much now we have the site. If we were still our travelling, you didn’t have time to be ill, you didn’t have time to realise you were ill, you just had to keep moving. The council didn’t care if you were well or not, they just wanted to move you on. Being in a proper place means a lot. The kids can get a proper education and the schools want them to be there. When my kids were younger, if you had to move and they were pulled out, no one checked up on them. But they do now. I have family elsewhere and the schools are able to share records, so if they’re moved on, the kids can just go to another school. But we don’t have that here. It’s different depending on where you are.”
Margaret, from the Irish Traveller community
Notes for Editor
About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)
Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsies, Roma and Travellers regardless of ethnicity, culture or background.
Sarah Sweeney, Communications and Health Policy Co-ordinator
Tel: 01273 234 038 Email: [email protected]
Women and Equalities Committee, 2019, Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. View report.