Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have been ‘comprehensively failed’ – report

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK have been “comprehensively failed” and ministers must set out how they will improve outcomes for the communities, the Women and Equalities Committee chairwoman has said.

Conservative Maria Miller criticised the Government for filing the issue under the “too difficult” category, as she called for improvements to healthcare and education access as well as domestic violence support.

A report by her committee, following a two-year inquiry into inequalities faced by gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, found that there had been a “persistent failure” by both national and local policymakers to tackle them in a “sustained way”.

The MPs said, given that “three in four” gypsies and Travellers live in non-caravan accommodation, Government policy-making is “overwhelmingly focused” on planning and accommodation issues.

To improve access to education, the committee recommended the Government pilot a “pupil passport scheme” so that when children move schools or into home education their records and history can travel with them.

On healthcare, they called for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to conduct a formal inquiry under the Equality Act into how joint strategic needs assessments are including gypsy, Roma and Traveller health needs.

The report noted that the communities have some of the worst health outcomes of any ethnic group – pointing to research by the University of Bedfordshire, which suggested one in five gypsy Traveller mothers will experience the loss of a child, compared with one in 100 in the non-Traveller community.

The committee also found that domestic abuse and violence against women and girls in gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities was a “serious and long-standing problem”.

The report said: “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of effective work that community organisations are doing working with gypsy and Traveller men and women to challenge outdated attitudes towards women.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.”

Ms Miller said: “Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people have been comprehensively failed by policymakers and public services for far too long.

“Access to education, health, employment, criminal justice, tackling hate crime and domestic violence – all these require services which differentiate between different groups who have different needs, and yet so many services are ill-equipped to support gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.

“The Government must stop filing this under ‘too difficult’ and set out how it intends to improve health, education and other outcomes for these very marginalised communities who are all too often ‘out of sight and out of mind’.

“While the number of gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK may be small compared to other groups, the Government’s commitment to race equality must reach even the most disenfranchised.”

Communities minister Lord Bourne said: “We recognise that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are amongst the most disadvantaged in our society.

“We are committed to tackling the serious inequalities highlighted by the Race Disparity Audit and have funded six pilot projects that have been working over the last year to improve health, integration and educational outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

“We acknowledge the recommendations of the committee. We will be writing to them with our response to the report in due course.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Chris Radburn / PA Wire.