Gypsies and Travelers
It is difficult to define the term Gypsies and travelers since they do not make up a homogenous group, but instead of different groups with different histories, vultures and beliefs (like Romany Gypsies, Irish Travelers and Scottish Gypsy Travelers (Comarty 2017). As per Traveler Movement (2017), the Irish Travelers and Romany Gypsies are indigenous (minority) ethnic groups, and have been identified as a part of the British and Irish societies for centuries. The ‘nomadism’ is manifested by their way of life, traditions and culture, importance of the extended family, their language, and the nature of their economy (Sheila 2015). The travel can also be due to search for jobs or for livelihood.
Census on 2011 in the UK showed 63,000 Gypsies and Travelers, of which, 58,000 were from England and Wales and 4,000 from Scotland and 1,000 from North Ireland (Comarty 2017).
Figure 1: Places where Gypsies and Travelers live; source: (Comarty 2017)
Figure 2: Number of Gypsies and Irish Travelers per 10,000 people; source: (Comarty 2017)
Inequalities Faced by Gypsies and Travelers (200)
Comarty (2017), points out that Gypsies and Travelers have faced some of the worst conditions of any ethnic groups on a wide array of social issues. Reports from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have shown multiple instances of inequalities faced by them. Studies from 2015 indicates a decreased survival chances since the previously review done on 2010. The main factors contributing to this are deprivation, discrimination and social exclusion (Green 2017). The Ministerial Working Group set up in November, 2010 aims manage and alleviate the inequalities faced by these groups.
The different issues faced by Gypsies and Travelers are Racial Discrimination, Hate Crimes, Accommodation, Planning, Healthcare, Education, Employment, Benefits and Tax Credits and Criminal Justice System. The proceeding paragraphs focuses on how the lack of a permanent address and accommodation affects the employability and healthcare of the Gypsies and Travelers.
Accommodation is one of the chief contributors to much of the inequalities faced by Gypsies and Travelers, and if often the source of tension between the settled and travelling communities. The livelihood within this population can vary between being permanently “on the road”, or living in mobile homes or caravans, living in temporary settlements, and others in permanent settlement, but with a strong commitment to the Gypsy culture.
Studies from the 2011 census showed that 76% of gypsies and Travelers lived in permanent settlements (houses), compared to 24% living in Caravans or temporary settlements. 34% actually owned or share owned their accommodation, and 41% living in social or rented accommodation (Comarty 2017). Several households tend to give up the mobile lifestyle in order to get better access to healthcare and education.
Since 2007, the number of traveler caravans in England has increased by 32% to reach 22,004 (as of 2017). Out of this most of the caravans are set up on private sites. The Mobile Homes Act 2013 provided the residents of these sites protection against eviction and provided rights and responsibilities at par with that of the permanent residents. However, A concern remains regarding the Environmental conditions prevailing in the sites (like poor location, proximity to sewage or railway lines, contamination hazards, deteriorating plumbing, and poor fire safety standards can have negative impact on their wellbeing (Greenfields and Brindley 2016). Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 provides the statutory legislature to manage homelessness, and mandates the local authorities to assist individuals or families who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.
Figure 3: Number of Traveler Caravans in England since 1979; source: (Comarty 2017)
Economic inclusion is almost synonymous with employment, and access to it is one of the primary measures undertaken by government to ensure social cohesion, wellbeing. Educational exclusion and illiteracy results in impairment of basic employment skills, and is a big contributor to the lack of employment faced by Gypsies and Travelers (Greenfeilds 2017).
Census study of 2011 showed that the Irish Travelers or Gypsies having highest economic inactivity levels and lowest employment rates among all ethnic groups (Arabs 42%, Bangladeshi 48%, Pakistani 49%). 20% of the travelers and gypsies being unemployed and 25% self-employed, and 31% were looking trying to get settled and 28% have long term sickness or disability. Also, they were also less likely to be students or being retired. 50% of this group were economically inactive and 60%among them were looking for home or family, which shows a significant correlation with their employment status (Ryder 2011).
Figure 4: Reasons for economic inactivity; source: (Comarty 2017)
The 2011 census also shows that 53% of all Gypsy and Irish Travelers are economically inactive due to retirement, long term disability, looking for home or family, student and other reasons (ons.gov.uk, 2014). The lack of a home or family and a permanent address accounts for almost 30% of the economic activity faced by Gypsies and Travelers, which shows a significance of having a home and an address in acquiring jobs in England and Wales. Such an issue is having an adverse effect of this group, and alternate ways of employment for these people should be considered to prevent their economic inactivity.
Figure 5: Reasons for Economic Inactivity; source: (ons.gov.uk, 2014)
Report from 2014 by the Data and Research Working Group of National Inclusion Health Board (NIHB) showed that the poor health condition of some gypsy/travelers made them more vulnerable to mortality and morbidity than the general population. For example, Male Irish Travelers have shown suicide rates that is 6.6 times higher than the general population, Gypsy of the Thames Valley having a 100 times higher risk of measles. Studies done by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in UK (1997-1999) found the travelers having the highest risk among all ethnic groups of maternal death. Overall, 42% of Gypsies in England have long term conditions, and have an elevated risk of stress, anxiety and depression.
In many aspects, accommodation (of the lack of it) is a key to understand the challenges, and inequalities to the access of services and infrastructure faced by Travelers and Gypsies (Greenfeilds and Brindley 2016). Access to proper accommodations vital to ensure access to education, health and public services. Additionally, members of this ethnic community are at ever increasing risks of homelessness and inadequate access to homelessness service, due to their exclusion from the responses of the local authorities or their duties to this group.
The Travelers and Gypsies are at risk of being driven further and further in poverty, social exclusion and cultural shock, without access to proper accommodation, the ability to maintain a lifestyle that can support the communities through the turmoil caused by the changes due to globalization, fluctuation in markets for employment, financial uncertainty and changing gender roles. A positive functioning and adaptability fueled by development of this group can only happen once access to proper accommodation becomes feasible, and can prevent the sense of insecurity and the need to struggle in order to get access to the various necessities for living, like water, sanitation, healthcare, education and training/employment services.
With everything being said about the challenges faced by this group, it can be established that improving their condition (with providence of proper accommodation, healthcare and public services) is the best way to preserve their culture that adds to the cultural diversity of this country.
Cemlyn, S., Greenfields, M., Burnett, S., Matthews, Z. and Whitwell, C. (2017). Inequalities experienced by Gypsy and Traveller communities: A review. [online] Dera.ioe.ac.uk. Available at: https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/11129/1/12inequalities_experienced_by_gypsy_and_traveller_communities_a_review.pdf [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].
Cromarty, H. (2017). Gypsies and Travellers. [online] Researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk. Available at: https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8083/CBP-8083.pdf [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].
Green, C. (2017). Discriminating against Gypsies and Travellers is 'common' in Britain. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/discriminating-against-gypsies-and-travellers-is-common-across-britain-report-finds-a6919651.html [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].
Greenfields, M. (2017). Gypsies, Travellers and Gendered Employment. [online] Dmu.ac.uk. Available at: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/documents/business-and-law-documents/research/cchr/margaretgreenfieldsgenderandemployment-esrcseminar2.pdf [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].
Greenfields, M. and Brindley, M. (2016). Impact of insecure accommodation and the living environment on Gypsies’ and Travellers’ health. [online] Gov.uk. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gypsy-and-traveller-health-accommodation-and-living-environment [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].
Ons.gov.uk. (2014). 2011 Census analysis - Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/ethnicity/articles/whatdoesthe2011censustellusaboutthecharacteristicsofgypsyoririshtravellersinenglandandwales/2014-01-21 [Accessed 14 Nov. 2017].
Ryder, D. (2011). UK Gypsies and Travellers and the third sector. [online] Birmingham.ac.uk. Available at: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/documents/tsrc/working-papers/working-paper-63.pdf [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].
Sheila, R.G.N., 2015. Gypsies and Travellers: their history, culture and traditions. Community Practitioner, 88(1), p.30.
travellermovement.org.uk/ (2017). Home Page - The Traveller Movement. [online] The Traveller Movement. Available at: https://travellermovement.org.uk/ [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].