10. Memorandum from the Gypsy and
Traveller Law Reform Coalition
The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition
(GTLRC) is an alliance of Gypsies, Irish Travellers and New Travellers
who come together to lobby for reforms to increase Traveller sites
provision and to raise their level of social inclusion. The GTLRC
is recognised as the principal point of contact with the Gypsy/Traveller
community by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Office
of the Deputy Prime Minister. The GTLRC recently won the prestigious
Liberty human rights award for 2004-05.
The GTLRC has the following comments to make
on the progress of the UK Government on Gypsy/Traveller issues
in relation to passages of the CERD report (which are in italics),
and makes a number of other relevant points which have human rights
(CERD report paragraph 5) The Committee
commends the State party's efforts to address more stringently
the issue of incitement to racial hatred, including the introduction
of a mechanism whereby the Metropolitan Police will provide a
central advice point for all forces in England and Wales in relation
to possible offences of incitement to racial hatred, as well as
the increase in the maximum penalty for incitement to racial hatred
from two to seven years' imprisonment under the Anti-Terrorism,
Crime and Security Act 2001.
In October 2003 villagers in a Sussex village
called Firle burnt a caravan with the word "pikey" written
on the caravan (a pejorative term for Gypsy/Traveller). There
were also effigies of a Gypsy family inside the caravan. This
event and action was organised by the Firle bonfire society as
part of their bonfire celebrations, lead members of the group
including a local councillor chanted "burn them out"
as the caravan was torched. Later it was claimed this action was
a protest in response to a recent unauthorised encampment.
Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for
Racial Equality, called for the perpetrators to be prosecuted
for incitement to racial hatred. Trevor Phillips stated (BBC report
"Gypsies and Travellers probably suffer
the most discrimination in this country. This is clearly an example
of incitement to racial hatred. You couldn't really get more provocative
than this. The police have to take it seriously. If we are asked
at the CRE, we will say this case should be pursued and the people
involved should be punishedwhich can lead to seven years
in prison. The idea that you can carry out an act like this and
then apologise and get away with it, is exactly what produces
a culture that says racism and discrimination and victimisation
of people, because of what they are, is OK."
The Crown Prosecution Service initiated an investigation
but surprisingly decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed
further. The Reviewing lawyer Patrick Stevens said that for anyone
to be prosecuted, it could only be on the basis of their own words
or acts. He said the general picture which emerged from the evidence
was of a "fairly disorganised group of individuals playing
different parts in the event". The GTLRC is deeply concerned
by this the Firle bonfire Society is an organised group and we
would have thought there would have been some level of planning
and cooperation in this event. There may be a need to review legislation
on incitement to racial hatred and ask if there are "loopholes"
that allow those responsible for incidents such as the one at
Firle to escape what we consider is a legitimate prosecution.
(CERD Report paragraph 12) The Committee
also reiterates its concern over the fact that the State party
continues to uphold its restrictive interpretation of the provisions
of article 4 of the Convention. It recalls that such interpretation
is in conflict with the State party's obligations under article
4 (b) of the Convention and draws the State party's attention
to the Committee's general recommendation XV according to which
the provisions of article 4 are of a mandatory character In the
light of the State party's recognition that the right to freedom
of expression and opinion are not absolute rights, and in the
light of statements by some public officials and media reports
that may adversely influence racial harmony, the Committee recommends
that the State party reconsider its interpretation of article
Regarding the media the report also states:
(CERD Report paragraph 13) The Committee
is concerned about the increasing racial prejudice against ethnic
minorities, asylum-seekers and immigrants reflected in the media
and the reported lack of effectiveness of the Press Complaints
Commission in dealing with this issue.
The Committee recommends that the State party
consider further how the Press Complaints Commission can be made
more effective and can be further empowered to consider complaints
received from the Commission for Racial Equality as well as other
groups or organizations working in the field of race relations.
The past year has seen some of the worst race
reporting witnessed in the UK. In March 2004 the Express played
upon racist stereotypes against Gypsies/Roma and claimed that
when the East European accession states entered into the EU hundreds
of thousands of Roma/Gypsies would "flood" into the
UK "to leach off the UK". Journalists on the Express
called upon the Press Complaints Commission to assist them in
resisting the instructions of their editors and management to
write such articles which they believed to be in breach of the
National Union of Journalists code of conduct. The Minister for
Europe described the reporting as a "rancid hate campaign".
The UK has also witnessed a spate of media reports
on planning cases involving Gypsies and Travellers. The reports
have often been one sided and grossly inaccurate, also emotive
language has been used Travellers being referred to as "thugs"
and "rural terrorists" and "outlaws".
The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition
and others have made numerous complaints to the Press Complaints
Commission (PCC) about these reports. None have been upheld or
acted upon bar one complaint regarding a site in Cottenham. On
several occasions the Daily Mail claimed that 750 Travellers were
living on a site called Cottenham in Cambridgeshire and that thousands
more were poised to move in. Given the tensions in this village
such claims were greatly unhelpful to community relations. Traveller
support groups supplied the PCC with evidence that there were
in reality only about 200 Travellers on the site. Journalists
from a number of newspapers have complained to the CRE about pressure
from their editorial staff to write reports such as those that
we are concerned about.
In 2003 Stonewall wrote a report "Understanding
Prejudices", it found (page 8) in a survey of people who
admitted to being prejudiced towards minorities that 14% of the
respondents expressed dislike of Gypsies/Travellers, slightly
greater than asylum seekers who registered a 13% disapproval rating.
The report (page 12) found that those who expressed prejudice
towards Gypsies and Travellers cited a number of stereotypes to
justify their prejudices such as claims that Gypsies and Travellers
don't pay taxes, have unreliable business practices and don't
respect the environment. We believe that the media, both locally
and nationally, has created many of these harmful stereotypes.
In May 2003 an Irish Traveller teenager called Johnny Delaney
was kicked to death in Ellesmere Port amidst racist taunting.
It is our fear that continued negative media reporting will increase
intolerance towards Gypsies and Travellers and increase the frequency
of racial attack.
The GTLRC firmly believes that the self regulating
Press Complaints Commission is failing. A more independent PCC
needs to be established, we would also like to see the Equality
and Human Rights Commission given representation on the PCC. It
is our fear that if the media does not show greater caution and
fairness then relations between the Gypsy and Traveller and settled
communities will be further strained, which could have dangerous
results. Already there is amongst some members of the settled
community a state of hysteria about Gypsies/Travellers for which
we hold the media responsible.
(CERD Report paragraph 7) The Committee
welcomes the establishment of a Community Cohesion Unit within
the Home Office, tasked with carrying forward the Government's
programme to encourage the building and strengthening of cohesive
The GTLRC has held a number of meetings with
the office of the Deputy Prime Minister over the past two years
and there has been a flow of information between the two. We would
like to see the establishment of a similar relationship with the
Home Office and call upon it to be more proactive in developing
dialogue with the GTLRC, in particular we believe that the Community
Cohesion Unit could play an invaluable role in combating the growing
tensions between the Traveller and settled communities. This unit
would benefit by learning about the reconciliation work the GTLRC
initiated in Cottenham a village which has attracted national
headlines. There Travellers and villages, as represented by the
residents association, signed a joint statement which noted common
ground between the two groups on a number of areas. This has helped
ease community tensions.
(CERD Report paragraph 14) The Committee
remains concerned at reports of attacks on asylum-seekers. In
this regard, the Committee notes with concern that antagonism
towards asylum-seekers has helped to sustain support for extremist
political opinions. The Committee recommends that the State party
adopt further measures and intensify its efforts to counter racial
tensions generated through asylum issues, inter alias by developing
public education programmes and promoting positive images of ethnic
minorities, asylum-seekers and immigrants, as well as measures
making the asylum procedures more equitable, efficient and unbiased.
We would like to bring to your attention that
the Law Lords have ruled that the government's immigration rules
racially discriminated against Roma (Gypsies) seeking entry into
The Home Office moved to cut asylum claims by
stopping people, mostly Roma, from boarding flights to Britain
from the Czech capital, Prague. The Civil rights group Liberty
said it exposed "racism at the heart of the government's
(CERD Report paragraph 22) While reiterating
its satisfaction in connection with the enactment of the Human
Rights Act of 1998, the Committee notes that no central body has
been established to implement the Act. The Committee considers
that the absence of such a body may undermine the effectiveness
of the Act.
The Committee refers to the earlier commitment
of the State party to consider establishing a Human Rights Commission
in order to enforce the Act and the possibility of granting such
a commission comprehensive competence to review complaints of
human rights violations, and recommends an early decision in this
A SINGLE EQUALITIES
A new single equalities Commission (Equality
and Human Rights Commission) is to be created. The CRE has prioritised
the tackling of prejudice against Gypsies and Travellers as a
key aim. We are fearful that this objective could be diluted when
the CRE enters into the new Single Equalities Commission in 2007.
We believe that tackling discrimination must be a key objective
of the new Single Equalities Commission when it takes responsibility
for race issues. Tackling racism against Gypsies and Travellers
is one of the most pressing race relations issues in the UK and
will require a long term programme of action. We welcome the fact
that the CRE has created a Gypsy commissioner and Gypsy/Traveller
steering group to help guide its work in this area. The new Single
Equalities Commission should strive to maintain such representation.
The CRE should have an immediate budget increase and the new Single
Equalities Commission should be allocated greater resources for
race work than what the CRE presently has as the CRE is clearly
under funded, a fact which sometimes impedes its effectiveness.
(CERD Report paragraph 23) The Committee
expresses concern about the discrimination faced by Roma/Gypsies/Travellers
that is reflected, inter alia, in their higher child mortality
rate, exclusion from schools, shorter life expectancy, poor housing
conditions, lack of available camping sites, high unemployment
rate and limited access to health services.
The Committee draws the attention of the
State party to its general recommendation XXVII on discrimination
against Roma and recommends that the State party develop further
appropriate modalities of communication and dialogue between Roma/Gypsy/Traveller
communities and central authorities. It also recommends that the
State party adopt national strategies and programmes with a view
to improving the situation of the Roma/Gypsies/Travellers against
discrimination by State bodies, persons or organizations.
The report by Pat Niner "The Provision
and Condition of Local Authority Sites In England, 2002".
Stated that there was a shortage of Traveller sites and a need
for approximately 4,500 transit and residential pitches. The shortage
of Traveller sites is universally recognised as one of the chief
obstacles in raising the social inclusion and life chances of
the Gypsy and Traveller community.
Over the past 18 months the Office of the Deputy
Prime Minister has been conducting a policy review into Gypsies/Travellers
and at last new policies are emerging. The Government has issued
a new draft circular to replace circular 1/94 and through the
Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 created Regional Spatial
Strategies that will not only create conventional housing but
also Traveller sites. The Government also inserted into the Housing
Act amendments creating a duty on councils to assess Gypsy/Traveller
accommodation needs and create strategies to meet that assessed
We welcome the apparent pro-active role local
authorities have to take in housing needs assessments. We hope
this lays the new policies of councils open to challenge even
long after they have been formulated where they have failed to
consult. Statements of Community involvement (SCIs) will set out
how councils intend to involve groups in the planning process
and consultations will be scrutinized by planning inspectors to
ensure that such consultation and involvement will take place.
We hope that where Gypsies and Travellers are unhappy with SCIs
some mechanism will be available whereby they can lodge their
dissatisfaction with councils and even the planning inspectorate.
With reference to the early stages of preparing
RSSs and DPDs, paragraph 21 of the draft circular declares "Gypsies
and Travellers should also be proactive in ensuring that they
engage with local planning authorities to ensure their views are
taken into account". We hope that the ODPM will organize
or give generous support and assistance to initiatives to train
Gypsies and Travellers/and their representatives on a regional
and national level to understand the new planning system and be
made aware of their rights. To this end we recommend that the
ODPM in association with Regional Housing Boards organize a series
of regional training events which bring together representatives
of the Gypsy/Traveller community, planning officials and other
stakeholders. Not only will this raise awareness of the new planning
system but it will forge useful links between different stakeholders.
With regard to the transitional arrangements
outlined in the draft circular, it is useful that local authorities
are being required to undertake what one might call "interim
needs assessments" for Gypsy and Traveller sites, and to
produce the results in the documentation for appeals. The transitional
arrangements should suggest that the local authorities should
get on with the task of identifying suitable land for sites immediately.
Why should this be left until they have to produce the DPD (Draft
Planning Document)? The new planning system may take several years
for councils to identify a sufficient number of sites. We believe
it would be preferable for local authorities in areas under pressure
from unlawful developments, to identify suitable locations for
sites immediately, instead of merely reacting to each successive
application on land, which is more or less unsuitable. This would
enable families facing eviction and homelessness the option of
securing land where development would be approved. It would also
enable families and councils to avoid a number of legal challenges
and enter into a process of land exchange (land swap) where Travellers
can vacate land, considered inappropriate for development, for
land where permission would be granted. The Government has stated
such arrangements are a matter for councils to consider on a voluntary
basis but has expressed concerns about the price differentials
in such land exchanges. We believe the differentials can be minimised
by councils using their powers of compulsory purchase to create
affordable parcels of land.
Regarding affordability the draft circular states
(paragraph 32) that councils should consider including a "rural
exception policy" in the relevant LDD (Local Development
Document) where there is a lack of affordable land. Again in order
to promote affordability we would recommend that councils use
their powers of compulsory purchase to create affordable land
for Traveller site development. Also councils could consider establishing
loans systems whereby Travellers can pay councils back to purchase
land. Measures such as these will avoid price inflation whereby
land becomes too expensive for most Traveller families and minimises
the danger of land speculators buying strips of available and
designated land and attempting to sell plots on unreasonable terms.
There is a danger that price inflation, if unchecked, will discourage
families from trying to secure land for site development, through
the new processes of the planning system. There is a need for
more detailed advice and guidance on creating affordable sites.
We strongly suggest that support is given to some of these proposals
on a trial basis as pilot projects run by councils but monitored
by the ODPM.
We have also noted that John Prescott MP, Secretary
of State at the ODPM, declared at the Labour Party conference
in 2004 that Labour would help create affordable housing by releasing
government owned land for development. We hope that this will
be extended to the Gypsy and Traveller community for site development.
Annex C (6) of the draft circular states that
sites should not be located on significantly contaminated land
but apparently this does not rule out locations near or adjoining
motorways, power lines, landfill sites or railway lines or motorways
anymore than it does for conventional housing. The ODPM will be
aware though that in the past a significant number of public sites
have been located in highly marginal space. We ask for the Government
to be highly vigilant about the quality of the land identified
for public and private sites. Where councils fail in due consideration
of identifying appropriate land swift intervention by the Government
will set an invaluable precedent. However, if councils do identify
hazardous land, which unfortunately will be likely in some cases,
and there is no intervention then other councils will follow such
examples and large numbers of Travellers will be consigned to
living in highly marginal space, which will have a negative impact
on their social inclusion and general life chances. A Task Force
may be of assistance in ensuring such vigilance is maintained.
The circular should make it clear that the Secretary of State
will use their powers of intervention where inappropriate land
is identified for development.
The Secretary of State has various powers of
intervention in the new planning system. Annex D (9) of the draft
circular describes for example how under section 21 (1) of the
Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 the Secretary of State
has the power to modify the draft DPD. If they fail to do so the
Secretary of State can under section 21 (4) of the Act direct
that the relevant part of the document be submitted to him for
approval. Furthermore, where a local planning authority has not
prepared a DPD in the first place then under section 26 (2) of
the Act the Secretary of State can direct them to prepare the
necessary document - if they fail to do so then ultimately the
Secretary of State can exercise their default power under section
27 and identify the necessary sites, proceed to an examination,
and then approve the document. Councils in the past have proved
to be reluctant to fulfil the most minimum of requirements regarding
Gypsies and Travellers. It is likely that many councils will attempt
to shirk their new responsibilities. The Secretary of State will
therefore have to use their powers of intervention at the earliest
possible opportunity. Swift intervention will set an example and
will encourage councils to meet their responsibilities. However,
failure to intervene on a sufficient level will lead to large
numbers of councils shirking their responsibilities and many of
the ills associated with the present planning system will continue.
On a more general level we still contend that
the new planning guidance and Regional Spatial Strategies should
be complemented by a statutory duty to provide/facilitate sites.
The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (Moving
Forward, 2004) declared that such a duty would send out a clear
message to councils and reinforce the effectiveness of Regional
Spatial Strategies. This measure is still supported by the Commission
for Racial Equality, National Farmers Union, Local Government
Association amongst others. It should also be noted that the recent
ODPM Select Committee report on Gypsy/Traveller Sites (November
2004) , after reflecting on the Government's proposals re Regional
Spatial Strategies, continued to advocate the need for a duty.
We hope that the Government will reconsider this option or failing
that introduce the amendment tabled by Lord Avebury to the Housing
Bill in November 2004 which proposed that the Secretary of State
may, if at any time it appears to him to be necessary to do so,
give directions to a local housing authority requiring it to exercise
its powers under S 24 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development
Act 1960, to provide such sites for Gypsies, for the accommodation
of such numbers of caravans, as may be specified in the directions.
The Secretary of State would not give any directions under subsection
(1) unless either:
(a) there were Gypsy caravans on unauthorised
sites in the area of the local authority at the previous January
(b) Gypsy families had been evicted from
unauthorised sites in the area of the local authority during the
previous calendar year. This would come into operation on the
day two years after the final publication of the Housing Act,
thus giving councils ample time to respond to new government guidance
and other requirements and recommendations related to Gypsy/Traveller
We believe that the ability of Travellers/Gypsies
to continue to enjoy a nomadic way of life is a basic human right.
The European Court of Human Rights stated in its judgement on
the case of Connors V UK (page 41).
"An unknown proportion of Gypsies and other
Travellers still actively travel whether throughout the year,
seasonally or on special or family occasions. Those who travel
throughout the year may have no fixed base at all. There is little
formal provision to accommodate Travellers and their trailers
while on the road. There are just 300 transit pitches provided
on local authority sites. Recent Gypsy counts have shown roughly
10 times as many caravans on unauthorised encampments. Even taking
into account the unknown number of private transit pitches, it
is clear that `nomadism' is currently mostly accommodated informally
and oftenfrom the viewpoint of both the settled community
The ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister)
has established a site refurbishment grant of eight million pounds
for 2005-06. Given that this money is to be used for the refurbishment
of local authority sites and creation of new transit sites it
is woefully inadequate.
Many Travellers on local authority sites have
limited security of tenure, they can be given as little as 28
days notice to leave a site. In the case of Connors v UK
the European Court of Human Rights found that the Connor family's
human rights under article 8 had been contravened in the way they
were evicted from a local authority site. Following this judgement
the UK Government will need to review security of tenure on local
authority Traveller sites. We believe that Gypsies and Travellers
should be given the same rights as mobile park home residents.
Local authorities have duties under the Housing
Act 1996 to offer accommodation to Gypsies/Travellers who reside
in a caravan but who have nowhere appropriate to place their caravan.
The Homelessness Act 2002 also created a duty on local authorities
to formulate a homelessness strategy. However, Lord Avebury supervised
a piece of research which found hardly any of the 157 authorities
which had homeless Gypsies in their area even mentioned Gypsies
in their initial strategies. Clearly local authorities need to
be reminded of this responsibility.
The GTLRC also believes that offering bricks
and mortar accommodation, which is usually bed and breakfast accommodation,
is unsuitable for homeless Gypsies. Many Gypsies and Travellers
have an aversion to bricks and mortar having lived all their lives
in caravans, living in conventional housing has been found to
cause anxiety and depression for Gypsies/Travellers. We believe
that local authorities should offer culturally appropriate accommodation
to Travellers namely places for them to place their caravans.
The temporary stop notice provisions in part
4 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 inserted sections
171E to 171H to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The Act
gives local planning authorities a new discretionary enforcement
power to be able to issue a temporary stop notice at the start
of unauthorised development, before an enforcement notice is served,
speeding up the process of enforcement.
The GTLRC believes that existing enforcement
powers are already extremely harsh and have led to the imposition
of large fines up to (£20,000) and even imprisonment. Given
the focus of such measures against Gypsies/Travellers as opposed
to their direction against the settled community they are probably
discriminatory. We believe that the temporary stop notices are
incompatible with article 8 and article 1 of the protocol (the
right to peaceful enjoyment of one's property) but also article
6 because there is no right of appeal and judicial review is likely
to prove an inadequate remedy when the temporary stop notice can
be issued without notice and lasts only 28 days.
If the temporary stop notice is introduced it
should only be used in extreme situations as paragraph 13 of the
draft circular suggests and not as paragraph 33 of the partial
refulatory impact assessment suggestssimply in order to
protect land that is classed as valuable eg green belt.
The Conservative Party has indicated that it
wishes to see even more stringent enforcement powers than those
the government are recommending and has claimed that Gypsies/Travellers
are abusing the Human Rights Act in planning cases. We have deep
concerns about these policy positions, which we contend are misinformed
In recent years there have been a number of
evictions against Traveller sites where planning applications
have failed. In such evictions there have been claims by Gypsies/Travellers
of excessive force being used by bailiffs, we have serious health
and safety concerns about the manner in which the evictions are
conducted. As outlined above we believe land swap could offer
a mutually beneficial alternative to eviction.
The Anti Social Behaviour Act 2004 created new
powers where Travellers on unauthorised encampments could be directed
by the police to an alternative vacant pitch/site. Once a Traveller
has been directed to an alternative site if they do not move to
that site they are not allowed to return to that authority for
three months, if the Traveller returns in that time their vehicles
can be seized. The GTLRC fears that local authorities will identify
sites that occupy marginal sites and have minimal facilities,
supervision and poor access to services, there are also dangers
of inter group tensions on such sites. Hence, some Travellers
will choose not to move onto these sites and will be forced to
move to another authority where the same process could be repeated.
This will have an extremely negative impact on Gypsies/Travellers
access to services and social inclusion.
The Scottish Parliament will need to consider
a number of reforms to match those initiated and proposed by the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and to fully implement the
recommendations of its equalities working group which produced
a report on Gypsy/Traveller issues in 2002. The GTLRC has received
funding from the Rowntree Charitable Trust to draft a Scottish
Traveller Law Reform Bill, which will propose reforms on Gypsy/Traveller
accommodation and raising their social inclusion. We hope that
the Scottish Parliament will assist us where possible in this
Paragraph 23 of the CERD report calls for appropriate
modalities of communication and dialogue between Roma/Gypsy/Traveller
The GTLRC welcome the fact that the ODPM Select
Committee recommended the creation of a Task Force on Gypsy/Traveller
issues. In a recent letter from John Prescott MP, Secretary of
State at the ODPM to Rodney Bickerstaffe, Prescott stated that
this proposal was being actively considered by the ODPM. Such
a Task Force will allow Gypsies and Travellers and other stakeholders
to actively advise the Government and civil servants on the effectiveness
of the new planning circular and other measures to increase site
provision and raise social inclusion. The Task Force would facilitate
constructive input into further refinement of these measures and
empower Gypsies and Travellers helping them to further develop
key policy formulation skills.
The CERD report raises a number of serious concerns
about the health and education of Travellers. Recent research
suggests these continue to be a great cause of concern.
An important new study by Parry G, Van Cleemput
P, Peters J, Moore J, Walters S, Thomas K, and Cooper C "The
Health Status of Gypsies and Travellers In England": A report
of Department of Health Inequalities in Health Research Initiative
Project 121/7500. 2004. University of Sheffield demonstrates the
need for continued concern in this area.
The report notes that Gypsy Travellers have
significantly poorer health than samples of age and sex matched
comparators, from different ethnic and also socially deprived
groups on nearly all indicators. The scale of inequality between
the study population and the UK general population was large with
reported health problems being between twice and five times more
prevalent. Correlations with age, education and smoking did not
solely account for the poorer health status. There was some evidence
of an inverse relationship between health needs and service use.
Qualitative analysis showed the impact of environmental stress
and cultural and health beliefs and attitudes on service use.
The report found accommodation was the overriding
factor, mentioned by every respondent, in the context of health
effects. These effects are seen to be far-reaching and not exclusively
concerned with actual living conditions, although these are clearly
seen as crucial. For most respondents the ability to choose their
style of accommodation and to decide for themselves whether, or
how, they continue to live a traditional travelling lifestyle
is of fundamental importance and crucial to their sense of independence
and autonomy. The lack of choice or the intolerable conditions,
mentioned by the majority of respondents, are an indication to
them of the negative way in which they are viewed by the non-Traveller
The report noted that in relation to Gypsy Travellers'
experiences in accessing health care and the cultural appropriateness
of services provided, there are widespread communication difficulties
between health workers and Gypsy Travellers, with experiences
of, and also defensive expectation of racism and prejudice.
The report makes a number of recommendations.
If improvements are to be made in Gypsy Traveller health, clearer
lines of responsibility and accountability are needed, as currently
there is lack of central guidance, fragmentation of services,
and a low priority given to Gypsy Traveller health. The general
implication for policy and health provision is that methods are
needed to improve access and services. However, planning for improvement
of health service provision and access is likely to be ineffective
until the central problem of the "invisibility" of Travellers
However, including a category for Gypsies and
Travellers on ethnic monitoring forms should be done in consultation
with their communities, and requires careful staff training. Improving
the cultural competence of health service staff is a priority
but with little or no evidence to support the efficacy of cultural
awareness training currently provided, any such development should
be evaluated in terms of its effectiveness at changing negative
attitudes that are at the root of much discrimination. Finally
the report concluded that many of the determinants of health status
are outside the remit of the Department of Health, inter-Departmental
co-ordination with regard to Gypsy Traveller health seems advisable.
The Traveller Health Strategy 2003-05 of the Republic of Ireland
is an example of such an approach, developed in response to a
key recommendation of the Report of the Task Force on the Travelling
Community. A similar inter-departmental Task Force in England
would command wide support.
The OFSTED (Office for Standards In Education)
report "Provision and Support for Traveller Pupils"
(ref HMI 455) published November 2003 stated:
"The vast majority of Traveller pupils linger
on the periphery of the education system. The situation has persisted
for too long and the alarm bells rung in earlier reports have
yet to be heeded" (page 3).
On the core issues of access, attendance and
attainment, the report estimates:
Secondary enrolment rates of Traveller
Education Services (TESs) visited average just over 60% at secondary
(47% at Key Stage 4). The numbers not enroled have "probably"
increased from 10,000 in 1996 to 12,000 now (page 8).
Average attendance rates are 75%
(page 2). 73% at secondary (page 9).
"Traveller pupils generally
performed worse than . . . any other minority ethnic group"
The report largely praised the work of TESs
but says; "The apparently intractable problem of increasing
enrolment and attendance at secondary level stretched to the limit
the resources of each Traveller education service. It is increasingly
being recognised that such issues demand co-operation and concerted
efforts by various agencies across an authority" (page 10).
13 January 2005