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Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities - Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report with recommendations to the Government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Women and Equalities Committee

Date Published: 5 April 2019

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What we know about inequalities facing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people have the worst outcomes of any ethnic group across a huge range of areas, including education, health, employment, criminal justice and hate crime. Too often local authorities and public services fail to differentiate between different groups who have different needs.

Figure 1: Educational attainments by ethnic group (percentage) 2016-17

Figure 1: Educational attainments by ethnic group (percentage)

Source: Ethnicity Facts and Figures

Our inquiry has found that, while many inequalities have existed for a long time, there has been a persistent failure by both national and local policy-makers to tackle them in any sustained way. This failure has led to services that are ill-equipped to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to use services that they need and are entitled to.

Government policy: history and current practice

The Woman and Equalities Committee is recommending to the Government that:

  • the Cabinet Office create a specific workstream within the Race Disparity Unit for eliminating Gypsy and Traveller inequalities.
  • the Race Disparity Unit should work closely across Government departments to ensure that the "explain or change" process is completed promptly and that every Government department has a strategy to tackle Gypsy and Traveller inequalities that are uncovered.
  • each department should have a strategy in place before the end of 2019. Because of a lack of statistical data, disparities that have been uncovered in academic research must be incorporated into this work and included as part of the Race Disparity Audit programme.
  • the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government should therefore write to us when the pilot projects are complete setting out the conclusion from the evaluations of the pilot projects, stating which ones are will be taken forward, and setting out the Department's plan and timescales.

The Committee did not set out to tackle issues relating to Traveller sites or encampments but to tackle a wide range of other policy issues often eclipsed by issues of accommodation. Given that three in four Gypsies and Travellers live in non-caravan accommodation, we are deeply concerned that Government policy-making is overwhelmingly focused on planning and accommodation issues.

Other important areas of public policy and service provision seem to consist of small-scale projects that are funded for a short time and then not taken forward strategically. Specialist support in education and health that has been put in place has not been sustained and is increasingly reliant on small, voluntary agencies.

Data gaps and how to deal with them

The Woman and Equalities Committee is recommending to the Government that:

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


Video: Committee Chair talks about problems faced by the children of Gypsy and Roma community in education

The Woman and Equalities Committee is recommending to the Government that:

  • the Department for Education should carry out a complete audit of all local authorities to ensure that they have robust policies and procedures on children potentially missing from education, as required by section 436A of the Education Act 2006 and the Government's own "Children Missing Education Guidance".
  • any local authorities that are found to have inadequate processes should be required to remedy them within six months of the audit.
  • the audit should also inspect the procedures that authorities have in place for ensuring that home educated children are receiving a "suitable" education, including effective mechanisms for taking action under section 437 of the Education Act.
  • the Government should consider piloting a pupil passport scheme with rapid evaluation to ensure that, should it be successful, it can be rolled out as quickly as possible.
  • at the same time, the Department for Education should explore how such a scheme could be implemented across England and what the budgetary implications would be. Such a scheme would ensure that when children move schools or move into home education, their records and history travel with them.
  • schools should, as part of their responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duty, be challenging race and gender stereotypes wherever they encounter them.
  • Ofsted should ensure that inspectors are actively inspecting schools for gender and racial stereotyping or signs of sexism or racism from either pupils or staff.
  • schools have a duty to proactively plan for how they will have conversations with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents about what relationship and sex education involves and what parents' options are for their children, short of removing them from school. These plans should be explicit and Ofsted should take them into account during inspections and assess schools accordingly.
  • there are multiple organisations in other fields that provide role models to speak and work with schools to foster good relations between groups.
  • the Government should increase the capacity of these organisation to provide similar support for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller role models.

Figure 2: Persistent Absence by ethnicity 2016-17 (%)

Figure 2: Persistent Absence by ethnicity 2016-17 (%)

Source: Ethnicity Fact and Figures, Absence from School


The Women and Equalities Committee is recommending to the Government that:

  • the Equality and Human Rights Commission should conduct a formal inquiry under section 16 of the Equality Act 2006 into how Joint Strategic Needs Assessments are including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller health needs.
  • the CQC should expand the programme "Experts by Experience" to look at equalities issues and should include Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people who have the best knowledge of where unequal treatment may be taking place.
  • the new assessment of needs for CCG resource allocation should include an explicit section for CCGs to outline the needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in their local areas.
  • this need should be taken into account by NHS England when it is allocating funding to CCGs.
  • maternity and antenatal care provide an opportunity for healthcare staff to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller women.
  • NHS England should consider training maternity staff and pre-natal staff to enquire about, signpost and refer to services that may also be beneficial to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller women, including immunisation, dental services, mental health services and sexual health checks.
  • local authorities should inspect every existing private Traveller site in their area to map which have access to a minimum standard of basic amenities and which do not. For those that do not, local authorities should place conditions upon the license to ensure that these measures are put in place or consider revoking licenses that do not comply with these conditions. This solution does not address the problem that arises when it is the local authority itself that owns the site. For this, we recommend that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government explore methods by which local authorities can be held to account for their own sites.

Figure 3: Variations in general health: by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011

Figure 3: Variations in general health: by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011

Source: Office for National Statistics Census 2011

Roma-specific issues

Video: Sarah Champion MP talks about the specific needs of the Roma community

The Women and Equalities Committee is recommending to the Government that:

  • the historical approach that the UK Government has taken to the EU Roma Framework is lacking in focus and has yielded little to no positive outcomes for Roma communities.
  • the pilot projects being run through the Controlling Migration Fund are a welcome development. However, the Government must properly evaluate all the pilots and explicitly state how each successful project will be rolled out. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should produce a full final report of all the projects and include clear decisions on which pilots were unsuccessful and should end and which were successful.
  • the Ministry should commit to implementing any successful projects nationally.
  • all Local Authorities that have Roma populations should consider the use of selective licensing to prevent exploitation in the private rented sector.
  • the Government should ensure that Roma children arriving from outside the UK are identified quickly and ensure that the Pupil Premium reaches the school no more than one school term after a child has registered.
  • Schools have responsibilities to support and educate young Roma people. Internal and informal exclusions of Roma children should not be used as a mechanism to improve exclusion rates. Ofsted should actively inspect schools for signs of Roma students being internally or informally excluded.

Discrimination and hate crime

The Women and Equalities Committee is recommending to the Government that:

  • we recommend that senior leaders in all public service bodies be trained in the Public Sector Equality Duty and that each body have a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller "champion", similar to the role that exists in the National Police Chiefs Council.
  • the Government should work with community organisations to train Gypsy, Roma and Traveller individuals to understand their rights, identify discrimination and to give them the tools to take legal action to challenge discrimination.
  • the Home Office should work with GATE Herts, with a view to creating more physical reporting sites, and should train community organisations to encourage Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to report hate crime when it occurs.

We have found that trust is low between Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and public services, due to historic and ongoing discrimination. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people feel that they are, at best, ignored and, at worst, actively discriminated against in public services and policy making.

While pockets of good practice exist, these tend to be driven by committed individuals developing creative solutions to overcome barriers. When individuals move on, the trust that has been built up dissipates, along with any progress that has been made.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have every right to live their lives according to their values and beliefs within the law that that applies to every UK resident. But we have concluded that actions that fall outside the law are not as effectively tackled by local authorities, law enforcement agencies and other public bodies as they are for settled communities.

This creates unnecessary tensions and prejudiced attitudes. This also lets down vulnerable members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, especially those suffering domestic abuse and children who are not receiving their legal right to education.

This is completely unacceptable and must be addressed through both sensitive work by public bodies and through the Communities being willing to work with them in good faith.

Violence against women and girls

Video: Sarah Champion MP talks about violence and abuse in the home faced by Gypsy and Traveller women

The Women and Equalities Committee is recommending to the Government that:

  • local authorities should ensure that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller women have access to a single, trusted contact who provides them with the information and support they need. Should this contact be from a charitable organisation, local authorities must ensure that the organisation has sufficient funding to sustain the necessary support.
  • a lack of awareness of consent culture and healthy relationships is leading to domestic abuse in young Gypsy and Traveller people's lives. Both boys and girls need to be taught what abuse is and how to challenge it.
  • all primary schools in England should ensure that they have lessons on consent and respect included in relationship education and these messages should continue through into secondary school.
  • Gypsy and Traveller organisations should be among groups involved in the development of these classes and could, where appropriate, deliver the lessons.
  • we have heard of effective work that community organisations are doing working with Gypsy and Traveller men and women to challenge outdated attitudes towards women. The Home Office should work with these organisations with a view to funding similar programmes across the country.
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