Gypsy and Traveller charity Leeds GATE respond to the recent Equalities Commission report, called ‘Healing a Divided Britain’, on racism which highlighted endemic prejudice and discrimination against the UK’s Gypsy and Traveller people. This is part of a series of responses from leading Gypsy, Roma and Traveller campaign groups to the Commission’s damning report.
Friends Families and Travellers, the Irish Chaplaincy and GRT Media’s response can be found here, and the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit’s response can be found here.
For Leeds GATE, as I am sure it will be for other Gypsy and Traveller organisations, the Equalities and Human Rights Commissions’ (EHRC) report elicits a mixed response. On the plus we have the clear and formal identification of the level of discrimination faced by Gypsies and Travellers; from a recognised body. Less positively, there is no clear indication in the report as to how these challenges may be overcome. Rather there is suggestion, sadly quite accurate, that many of these various barriers will likely only become greater given the current political and social climate.
Looking at the details of the report, it is fair that so much of this is information we and our members either already suspected or indeed knew for certain. Whether in relation to educational attainment, employment opportunities, political representation, accommodation or media bias Gypsies and Travellers are specifically identified as facing exceptional discrimination or disadvantage. Whilst not new to many of us, it is to some degree welcome that a recognised, independent body such as the EHRC has so clearly stated this.
What we were looking for though were indications of how the challenges, correctly identified, will be addressed. The document, as the title suggests, is arguing only for a need for a comprehensive race equality strategy as opposed to the strategy itself. Whilst it sets out potential priorities, clear recommended actions are essential. Leeds GATE and many of our partners have views and strategies, on accommodation, health, education, which we are consistently seeking opportunity to feed into public debate. Hopefully this report helps bring some of these issues to the fore.
What is also lacking, perhaps similarly because it is beyond the report’s aims, is a positive side. So whilst good that the discrimination or educational marginalisation are helpfully identified, Gypsy and Traveller achievements or attributes are not mentioned. Let’s not forget then that despite all the disadvantage many of the community provide valuable kinship care or demonstrate self-employment ingenuity, not to mention rich heritage, good humour, strong social capital and resilience.
Let’s welcome the formal recognition that Gypsies and Travellers are heavily discriminated against in so many aspects of public life. Let’s also keep talking though about why Gypsies and Travellers are, and should be, proud of who they are and so much of what they do.
Read about Leeds Gate’s work on solutions to tensions and costs around unauthorised camps here.