Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities Contents

4Data gaps and how to deal with them

45.As outlined in Chapter 2, there is a lot we do not know about the lives and needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, including something as simple as the number of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people who live in the UK. The need for good quality data was expressed by numerous witnesses, who spoke about the difficulties in commissioning services and planning budgets when there is insufficient information about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller populations in a local area. Shaynie Larwood-Smith of Cambridgeshire County Council gave us an example in healthcare:

On a big national level, even on a county council level or on an NHS level, you cannot commission for what you do not know. You cannot go and do cultural competency in a hospital that does not even recognise that it might have a Gypsy/Traveller community that it serves. You cannot make change until you can prove need, is my feeling.65

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Ian Dalgarno of Central Bedfordshire Council:

At a local level, unless we can try to engage with individual families, we do not know what is going on and what support they really need.66

46.Although the importance of having data, both for policy-making and resource allocation, is clear, it seems that most public bodies do not provide the option for Gypsy and Traveller people to disclose their ethnicity. The Race Disparity Audit found that, among the 130 datasets that were audited in October 2017, only 27 included classifications for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.67 The majority of these (21 datasets) were in education although the National Pupil Database uses the categories of “Gypsy/Roma” and “Travellers of Irish Heritage” rather than the census categories, meaning that it is difficult to understand which disparities are in which community. This lack of data in other areas was confirmed by witnesses.

47.The NHS was particularly highlighted by witnesses as an example of poor practice, as Yvonne MacNamara of Traveller Movement told us:

The NHS data dictionary does not include Gypsies and Travellers. We have been lobbying for almost 10 or 12 years for that inclusion […] the NHS keeps saying “Yes, this is a great idea” and it keeps commissioning a few reports every few years, but it is not doing anything about data monitoring and its inclusion in the NHS data dictionary.68

Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care, seemed to suggest that the problem with adding tick-boxes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups would be that it might mask inequalities between the various groups. She stated that:

We are talking about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller population as a group now, but I would say that in some respects that in itself brings with it discrimination too. There is a world of difference from Showpeople, who are quite well integrated, right through the spectrum until you get to Roma, where there is probably the least integration. Yes, there is good reason to try and capture that ethnicity, but equally we really do need to challenge whether that is going to give us a proper picture of what we need to be tackling.69

Given that there is no data on any group at all, we do not find this argument compelling. If the NHS is to understand the needs of its patients, the Government should ensure it is capturing ethnicity in as much detail as possible, not avoiding a potential solution because it may be imperfect.

48.The lack of consistent data collection on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people means that public bodies are failing to tackle inequalities that are clearly evidenced in academic research and in work being carried out by grassroots organisations. Some good practice exists within education regarding data collection and we see no reason why this cannot be rolled out across all public services.

49.Gypsy, Irish Traveller and Roma categories should be added to the NHS data dictionary as a matter of urgency.

50.The Race Disparity Unit should review all the Government and public datasets that currently do not use the 2011 census ethnicity classifications and require their use before the end of 2019.

Declaring ethnicity

51.We heard from witnesses that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people may be reluctant to self-identify, even where the option is available to them. This is because Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people often mistrust the intent behind data collection. With Roma people this fear originates from their countries of origin, where it was not unusual for Roma people to be openly discriminated against and segregated. Szymon Glowacki of the Roma Support Group told us that:

Usually, because of the discrimination faced in the countries of origin, [Roma people] would not disclose their ethnicity. If they would say anything, they would rather say they are Polish, Romanian or Slovak, but usually they would not say that they are Roma.70

Dr Alison McFadden of the University of Dundee stated that the fear of discrimination is real and persists among all the Communities, even in the UK:

That impacts on whether you can get a job, rent a house, have a taxi come and pick you up and take you for your appointment, whether an ambulance will come to your site, and so on.71

52.Even when categories are available for public services to record Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnicities, there is a fear by the Communities that disclosing this information will lead to discrimination. In order for this to change, trust must be built between data-collectors and the Communities.

53.The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should work with grassroots Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations to formulate a wide-ranging campaign to explain the importance of collecting such data and to encourage self-disclosure.

66 Q15 [Councillor Dalgarno]

67 Cabinet Office, ‘Ethnicity Classifications,’ accessed 19 February 2019

69 Q680 [Jackie Doyle-Price]

70 Q47 [Szymon Glowacki]

71 Q49 [Dr McFadden]

Published: 5 April 2019