Ministers must confront ‘persistent failure’ to tackle Gypsy Roma and Traveller inequalities, MPs say

Posted On: 
5th April 2019

Ministers must take major action to address the long-term inequalities faced by Britain’s Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities, MPs have said in a new report.

Travellers who set up camp on fields owned by Eton College in 2002
Credit: 
PA Images

The Women and Equalities Committee revealed they have “the worst outcomes of any ethnic group” across areas including education, health, employment, criminal justice and hate crime.

Committee chair Maria Miller said the community was too often left “out of sight and out of mind" and that on addressing the disparities ministers "must stop filing this under ‘too difficult".

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A two-year inquiry found that successive governments had “overwhelmingly focused” on planning and encampments, with a “persistent failure” by policy makers at all levels to address long standing issues "in any sustained way".

The committee criticise the use of “small scale projects that are funded for a time and then not taken forward strategically” and specialist support that is not sustained and is increasingly reliant on small voluntary agencies.

On education, the report reveals that pupils from Gypsy or Roma backgrounds and those from a Traveller or Irish Heritage background had the lowest attainment of all ethnic groups throughout their school years.

MPs say the "intolerable" situation must prompt inspectors to ensure schools are challenging stereotypes and discrimination against students from such backgrounds.

Meanwhile life expectancy is 10-12 years less than that of the non-Traveller population - with 42% of English Gypsies affected by a long-term health condition, compared with 18% of the general population.

Ms Miller added that the lack of data collected on Roma people leaves them with problems accessing the services they need, adding: “They are invisible to policy makers. If you’re not counted, you don’t count.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission should conduct a formal inquiry to ensure the health service is addressing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller health needs, the report says.

The document also reveals that a staggering 90% of respondents to a Traveller Movement survey had experienced discrimination and 77% had been targeted by hate speech or a hate crime.

The committee chair added that many people “don’t know that it is illegal to discriminate against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and, even when they do, they do it anyway”.

“Some of this discrimination is happening in our public services and this is simply not good enough. Leaders of public services need to be trained to stop it,” she continued.

The report also calls on ministers to step in and fund community organisations which challenge “outdated attitudes” towards women and to help those who are unable to flee their “very tight-knit” families to escape domestic violence.

'ILL-EQUIPPED'

Ms Miller added that Gypsy Roma and Traveller people have been “comprehensively failed by policy makers 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," she said.

“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 area 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 of the report: “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.”