COMMONS

Tackling inequalities faced by GRT communities: Government needs to commit

02 July 2019

The Women and Equalities Committee publishes Government Response and a letter  to Lord Bourne regarding inequalities faced by Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities.

Failure to tackle long term inequalities

The Government’s cross departmental strategy to tackle inequalities in Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities is a positive step but short on detail, says the Women and Equalities Committee in a letter to Lord Bourne.

The letter is published alongside the Government Response to the Committee’s recent report, the letter also sets out the Committee’s concerns that several key recommendations have been ignored.

The Committee’s inquiry found that Gypsy Roma and Traveller people have the worst outcomes of any ethnic group across a huge range of areas, including education, health, employment, criminal justice and hate crime.

It concluded that a persistent failure to tackle long term inequalities in any sustained way has led to services that are ill-equipped to support Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities, who have a low level of trust in services and feel at best ignored, and at worst actively discriminated against both in public services and policy making.

The report made numerous recommendations for tackling these problems in a range of policy areas including:

  • health
  • education
  • data collection
  • hate crime
  • violence against women and girls.

Letter to Lord Bourne

The letter to Lord Bourne expresses the Committee’s disappointment that the Government has chosen not to take up some of the most important recommendations.

These include:

  • Increased local authority powers to inspect the quality of education for home educated children: consulting on a possible register is welcome but does not go far enough in addressing the challenges that GRT parents face: children can be expected to become homemakers or go out to work as young as 11, and parents need better support to ensure a better future for their children.
  • All local authorities with Roma populations should consider selective licensing: the response that selective licensing areas cannot be designated on the basis of demographics or risk of exploitation misunderstands the evidence which led to this recommendation. The Committee heard that the reasons Roma people are being exploited include being recent migrants, having high levels of deprivation and tending to live in areas with poor housing conditions, all of which are criteria which can be used in making judgements on selective licensing
  • Making the pupil premium system work better for GRT children

The Committee has also asked Lord Bourne to ensure that:

  • Further detail is provided on the Government’s plans to increase the capacity of community organisations that are working with schools to provide role models from GRT communities.
  • The current review of the amendments to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, due to be published in September 2019, engages with GRT issues to ensure that the problem of children missing from education is tackled effectively
  • CCGs take into account the needs of GRT people when applying for funding from NHS England
  • Data collection is improved:  the Race Disparity Audit should review all government and public datasets and ensure that all departments are using as a minimum the 2011 census ethnicity classifications before the end of the year. Swifter action is needed as GRT people are still unable to identify themselves to public services, which cannot take their needs into account.

The Committee has asked Lord Bourne to report what action is planned to tackle the problem of children missing from education once the review is completed, and to report back on progress on health funding and data collection in July 2020.

'Some of the response lacks focus and specific commitments'

Committee Chair Maria Miller said:

“We are heartened to see that the Government agrees with the principles behind many of our recommendations. But some of the response lacks focus and specific commitments, and we have asked the Minister to report back to us in 12 months’ time.  These issues are not new.

Gypsy Roma and Traveller people have some of the worst outcomes of any ethnic group – in health, education, and employment, and they face high levels of discrimination and hate crime.

We need to see more specific commitments from the Government. Otherwise these problems will continue to prevent some of our most vulnerable groups from thriving.”

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