Report demands an end to 'acceptable racism'

Published: 22 October 2014 at 12:23

Little has been done to improve lives of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma in the UK

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Racial discrimination against Gypsies, Travellers and Roma is still common, a report by The National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and Anglia Ruskin University has found.

The report Gypsy, Traveller and Roma: Experts by Experience is the first comprehensive review of what life is like for those communities across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It states the Government’s failure to have a comprehensive strategy with regard to their needs – despite being allocated 20.8billion Euros of EU cash partly to support Roma integration - means that an estimated half a million people are being excluded from wider society.

The report highlights:

· Nearly 9 out of every 10 children and young people from a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller background have suffered racial abuse and nearly two thirds have also been bullied or physically attacked. As a result many are scared to attend school.

· The infant mortality rate of Gypsies and Travellers is three times higher than the national average.

· The life expectancy of Gypsies and Travellers has been estimated to up to 12 years less than the general population. They are significantly more likely to have a long term condition and suffer poorer health. Yet Gypsies and Travellers use mainstream health services less than other members of the population because of practical difficulties, such as complex procedures for registering and making use of services.

· Traditional occupations such as scrap metal dealing are being made more difficult or disappearing altogether due to Government policies. Roma are often exploited by gang masters.

· A lack of appropriate trailer (caravan) sites is having a significant detrimental impact on the lives of Gypsies and Travellers across the UK. Gypsies and Travellers have been encouraged to purchase their own land - however 90% of planning applications made by Gypsies fail.

The report, launched at the House of Commons this evening (Wednesday, 22 October), found that, while there were some small pockets of good practice, for Gypsies and Travellers, the lack of legal stopping places was continuing to impact on their access to employment and health services. Extreme racial hatred was a common experience for them and the Roma, who often endure poor housing conditions.

Although they are often more recent migrants to the UK, many Roma people also suffer poverty, discrimination and exclusion. Yet these experiences are not unique to the UK, as Roma across Europe (where the “Roma” umbrella term includes Gypsies and Travellers) are found to face some of the worst forms of discrimination and racial hatred.

The report calls for a national strategy and specific policies, such as making children from Gypsy, Traveller or Roma backgrounds eligible for pupil premiums and focusing housing officers on the needs of Roma.

Co-author Siobhan Spencer MBE, Co-Director of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and PhD student at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“We need a concrete strategy with a timeline of goals with achievable and measurable outcomes. Funding earmarked for social improvement has been allocated through Local Enterprise Partnerships, but lack of knowledge about how these LEPs work has left many community groups excluded.
“The 39 LEPs are concerned only with creation of employment and we have no way of monitoring if minority groups have benefited from the funding.”

Fellow author Dr Pauline Lane, Reader in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are seeking equal rights, opportunities and access to services and to be treated as equal citizens. Mainstream policies have consistently failed them in the past and this research suggests they are continuing to fail these communities today.
“In order to improve the lives of people from Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities, there is an urgent need for the UK to address discrimination against these communities. At the moment, it is the last bastion of ‘acceptable’ racism and that needs to stop.”

Download the report.