Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities Contents


1.This report explores inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, umbrella terms describing diverse minority groups whose members experience very stark inequalities.


2.The term Gypsy, Roma and Traveller has been used by policy-makers and researchers to describe a range of ethnic groups or those with nomadic ways of life who are not from a specific ethnicity. In the UK, it is common to differentiate between Gypsies (including English Gypsies, Scottish Gypsy/Travellers, Welsh Gypsies and other Romany people), Irish Travellers, who have specific Irish roots, and Roma, understood to be more recent migrants from Central and Eastern Europe. In continental Europe, however, all groups with nomadic histories are categorised as “Roma”, a much broader term that, while it includes Gypsies and Irish Travellers, is not the way in which most British communities would identify themselves.

3.The term Traveller can also encompass groups that travel, including, but not limited to, New Travellers, Boaters, Bargees and Showpeople. While these communities share many of the barriers faced by people who are ethnically Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller, covering all these groups in a single inquiry would not do justice to their needs. Our hope is that the recommendations in this report will benefit not only those that are in the three groups we have focussed on but everyone who travels or is not a part of the settled community.

4.We asked many members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities how they preferred to describe themselves. While some find the term “Gypsy” to be offensive, many stakeholders and witnesses were proud to associate themselves with this term and so we have decided that it is right and proper to use it, where appropriate, throughout the report. We also heard many other terms used to refer to the Communities that are completely unacceptable and hate speech will be explored in Chapter 6 of this report.

5.Gypsies and some Traveller ethnicities have been recognised in law as being ethnic groups protected against discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.1 Others, such as New Travellers, have either been deemed not to be protected or have not tested their rights in court. Migrant Roma are protected both by virtue of their ethnicities and their national identities.

6.As the inquiry progressed, we heard evidence that suggested to us that migrant Roma communities face inequalities that are very different to those faced by Gypsies and Travellers. Therefore, Chapter 7 of this report is dedicated to Roma-specific issues. Elsewhere in the report where Roma are included, this is explicit. Where Roma are not mentioned, the recommendations apply to Gypsy and Traveller communities only. These variations are deliberate to help the reader to understand which groups we mean to include. On occasion, the word Communities is used as a shorthand to refer to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as a whole.

Our Inquiry

7.In 2012, a Ministerial Working Group published 28 commitments to improving the lives of Gypsy and Traveller communities2 but, it was unclear at the launch of the inquiry how much progress had been made on these. Our predecessor committee decided urgent investigation was needed into the challenges that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities face. We called for evidence on how well policy-makers and service-providers were taking into account the needs of the Communities. It became apparent during the inquiry that there is a complex and extensive list of issues that need to be addressed, many of which are inter-related. The Government will need, in its response, to demonstrate how it will ensure that a comprehensive plan is put in place to address all the issues raised.

8.The inquiry was originally launched in November 2016 and received over 60 written submissions from academics, community groups, local authorities and public service providers. The previous committee met community groups in Bath and the surrounding area. After the 2017 general election, we decided that the inquiry should be continued. We received another six written submissions and visited Kent and Leeds, where we spoke to community groups, local authority representatives and families and visited people in their homes, whether on sites or in bricks-and-mortar housing. We began taking oral evidence in February 2018. Witnesses included experts in a variety of policy areas, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people speaking about their own experiences, organisations conducting representative and advocacy work, service-providers and three ministers, for health and social care, education, and communities and local government. We heard, in private, from Gypsy and Traveller young people and from Gypsy and Traveller women who had experienced domestic abuse. The witnesses spoke powerfully about their own experiences and we thank them for sharing their stories with us. We are very grateful to our Specialist Advisors, Professor Philip Brown, Michelle Lloyd and Dr Siobhan Spencer MBE, for their help and guidance throughout the inquiry.3 We are also grateful to all those who engaged with the inquiry, both formally and informally.

9.The public discourse around Gypsy and Traveller issues centres heavily around planning and accommodation matters to the exclusion of most other issues. Our focus throughout this inquiry has therefore been to bring to the fore the unheard voices, and to explore the issues that have hitherto been placed in the “too difficult” box by policy makers. While the number of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK may be small compared to other ethnic groups, the Government’s commitment to race equality must reach even the most disenfranchised. The recommendations in this report, while focused on the communities we have spoken to, may also provide solutions to inequalities found in other groups.

1 English, Welsh and Scottish Gypsy/Travellers and Irish Travellers. See Chapter 8 for discussion.

3 Professor Philip Brown is a member of the Labour Party, a member of the Universities and Colleges Union, a non-executive board member of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing and a trustee of Roma Futures. Michelle Lloyd is a member of Survival International and Amnesty International. Dr Siobhan Spencer MBE is a co-ordinator for National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, co-ordinator for Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Groups, committee member for the Advisory Council on Education for Romany and other Travellers, a member of Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Gypsy, Roma Traveller Liaison Group and a member of the Educational Testimony Group for the Government Commission on the Holocaust.

Published: 5 April 2019