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Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communties "a political football" - expert report

Friday 5 April 2019

MPs have provided a damning critique of progress made on addressing the inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, in a report drawing on research and expertise from the University of Salford.

April 8, 2019 marks International Roma Day – a day to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of issues facing Roma people. But since it’s creation in 1990, the challenges they face have remained and even increased, driven by the Far Right and austerity, the report says.

Philip Brown, Professor of Social Change in the School of Health & Society, who has spent two years working as a special advisor to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, says these special communities “continue to experience open discrimination and prejudice, both in the UK and Europe."

He said: “In the UK, only recently we have had an arson attack on a Travellers site and witnessed a holiday park trying to maintain a “no Travellers” rule.”

'Inaction and neglect'

The Parliamentary report challenges the government to do more to improve communities’ outcomes in education and health care, tackle discrimination and hate crime, as well as violence against women and girls.

They call for a clear and effective plan to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, in line with the inequalities they face. 

Writing a supporting article in The Conversation, Professor Brown said: “The UK government’s record on Roma issues has been one of inaction and neglect. 

“Plans, such as the coalition's 2012 strategy to tackle inequalities have been widely derided for having limited scope, little ambition and weak recommendations. The most recent inquiry failed to consider the shortage of pitches and site accommodation across the UK.

No votes here

“Few politicians – with notable exceptions such as Kate Green and Baronness Whitaker – speak out against the inequalities faced by these communities, and indeed during the inquiry, Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Let’s be honest: we are all Members of Parliament  and we all know there are no votes in championing this group of people”.

According to the research Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, on average, die younger, have poorer health and experience the death of a child far more frequently.

The report also considers children’s educational needs and rights, claiming “entrenched attitudes” were contributing to poor educational attainment, absenteeism and marginalisation. 

Added Prof Brown: “One way forward is for the government to use the Race Disparity Audit to address inequalities. Vocal leadership is also required from within government at all levels. For too long, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have been used as a political football, with few people  in positions of power speaking up for their needs.”

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Gareth Hollyman, Senior Press & PR Officer (Science)

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