Transcript: The relationship between social work and Gypsy/Traveller communities

Annie Bryant, a criminal justice social worker and Davie Donaldson, A Scottish Traveller share their experiences

Podcast Episode: The relationship between social work and Gypsy/Traveller communities

Category: Social work (general) 

What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

Kerry: Today is about exploring positive engagement with Scotland’s gypsy travellers and the role rural social work has in challenging the othering of these communities. This session is going to be looking at terminology, historical understanding and the relationship between social work and gypsy traveller communities. We’re hoping it’s going to challenge some of the preconceptions around gypsy travellers that exist and it’s going to introduce solution focused approaches to positive engagement and bring in and reflect on the lived experience of the community and look at inclusive practice.

So, without any further ado I’m going to introduce our two speakers. First up we have Annie Bryant, who’s a criminal justice social worker based in Dumfries and Galloway. Her knowledge of this subject has been gained from personal experiences, being a dual national and the partner of a traveller. Her experiences have inspired her to write her final year dissertation prior to qualification in 2019 on Gypsies, Travellers and Othering: The Othering, The Experience.

Following Annie, we’ve got Davie Donaldson, so Davie Donaldson is a Nawken, is that right? Keep me right, Davie, our Scottish traveller, an advocate and social justice campaigner. By using his lived experience in creating a platform for others he supports decision makers at local, national and international level to increase inclusivity of policy and practice. He has award winning experience in advocating for communities and everything along evictions, planning decisions to cases of hate crime and discrimination. His work has been recognised nationally; one newspaper called him Scotland’s Top Campaigner for Traveller Rights. And as well as being a successful advocate, Davie’s a social entrepreneur founding the organisation, Progress in Dialogue, whose strapline is supporting social change one conversation at a time and he’s also a chairman of Romano Lav charity and a graduate in social anthropology and international relations from Aberdeen University. I’m going to hand you over to Annie, our first speaker. Annie, thanks so much for joining us today.

Annie: Hello everybody, as Kerry says, my name is Annie Bryant and I’m currently a social worker in the criminal justice team in Dumfries and Galloway. I’m sure we’ve got a diverse range of people here from different places, backgrounds and professions which is really great so thank you all for joining. I’ve tried to keep my input general and hopefully relevant to all rural social work practice. I hope you all find it useful. So, I think before we can begin to understand the role of social workers in protecting the rights and wellbeing of gypsies and travellers, it’s important that we first understand that gypsies and travellers are not a single group but a diverse range of communities with different historical routes, cultures, identities and backgrounds.

Romany gypsies are suggested to have originated from northern India where persecution forced them to move west, reaching the United Kingdom in the 16th century. The first official record of gypsies in Scotland is noted in the book of the treasurer to King James the IV, in 1505 whereby £7 was paid to the gypsies by the king’s command. It’s speculated that this was payment for entertainment of some sort. Irish travellers were also arguably part of the western migration from northern India. Scottish travellers on the other hand were first reported in Scotland in the 12th century where the tinkling sound produced by their common occupation as tin smiths, earned them the nickname Tinkers. It is suggested that due to their similar nomadic lifestyles and cultures, Roma gypsies and travellers intermarried and the groups integrated and became identified as one.

The first anti-gypsy laws were introduced in Scotland in 1541 and were designed to deter gypsies from entering Scotland on pain of death. The 1571 act then saw the passing of the hanging and drowning of gypsies which escalated in 1579 to many being burned at the stake merely for being gypsies. By 1741 gypsies were being shipped to the Caribbean to be used as slaves whilst in the later part of the 16th century the executions ceased. The passing of oppressive legislation has continued and has continued to be criminalised and persecuted throughout the centuries. They were also the victim of Nazi Germanies ethnic cleansing during the Holocaust. In 1960, the Caravan Sites in Control of Development Act was passed which stated that no occupier of land could cause or permit any part of the land to be used as a caravan site unless they were the holder of a state licence.

Such licences can only be obtained through planning permission, this legislation is still enforced today and it’s reported that 80% of applications made by gypsies and travellers for planning permission are denied compared to 10% of applications made by the settled community. The lack of authorised sites on which to live and the difficulties in obtaining planning permission have resulted in a cycle of confrontation and eviction. This has led to disruption in the access to stable education, employment and public services. The 1960 Act gave the local authorities the power to purchase land for sites and to provide facilities however the Act placed no obligation on local authorities to provide these sites and as such more sites were closed than created which exacerbates the problem of unauthorised encampments.

The Caravan Sites Act 1968 was arguably an improvement and it placed the duty on local authorities to provide authorised caravan sites for gypsies and travellers however with no time scales imposed on local authorities to make these provisions, this duty was reportedly neglected nationwide. Where sites were provided, they often had only the minimum number of pitches and the increased power of local authorities meant that the occupants of these sites had to abide by specific rules and conditions for example, they were unable to trade on the premises or keep animals. And these are conditions that many gypsies and travellers deemed to be incompatible with their culture.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 removed funding and the duty on local authority to provide any sites. It’s also arguable that location and condition of authorised sites would not be tolerated in any other section of society with the majority of sites being situated next to motorways, runways, rubbish tips and sewage farms, most of which are deemed as unsuitable for residential development. Lacking legal, safe and secure accommodation not only acts to destabilise gypsies and travellers but undermines their human rights. The lack of suitable, secure accommodation underpins many of the equalities that the gypsy traveller community faces for example accessing health care services without a fixed address can be very problematic.

Arguably they’re caught between insufficient supply of accommodation and the insecurity of unauthorised encampments and face cycles of eviction whereby continued instability becomes normal. This also causes severe disruptions in education for children, health care services and employment opportunities. Although gypsies and travellers have constituted a distinctive social group on the grounds of culture, lifestyle and even language for centuries, it was only in 2010 that they were recognised within legislation as an ethnic minority within the equality act which has certainly been a very positive step forward for the community. Moving on to demographics, I’m not going to speak in too much depth about this as I believe that it’s something that Davie will also touch upon, however, I think it’s important to highlight some key statistics. So, it’s estimated that the life expectancy of gypsies and travellers is at least 10 years lower than the national average and poor health and infant mortality rates are considerably higher than national averages.

Compared to the population as a whole, gypsies and travellers are more likely to be divorced or separated, live in lone parent households and have 3 or more dependent children. The census also revealed that gypsies and travellers are more likely to report poor health, unemployment, overcrowded living conditions and 92% of young gypsies and travellers reported experiencing persistent bullying and prejudice. A report that was published by the HM Inspectorate of prisons found that gypsies and travellers were significantly over-represented within the prison population and within the youth justice system.

A survey conducted by the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey in 2010 found that gypsies and travellers continue to experience high levels of discrimination which exacerbates the inequalities they experience and it found that discriminatory attitudes are still very much prevalent in today’s society. This survey found that 46% of respondents felt that a gypsy or traveller would be unsuitable as a primary school teacher and 37% advised that they would be unhappy if a family member formed a relationship with a gypsy or traveller. These I’m sure you’ll agree are quite horrifying statistics.

What does all this mean for social work and where does this leave us moving forward? Having covered some of the challenges that the gypsy traveller community face, I just want to touch on how we as a profession can take these into account and move forward. All social work processes and interventions must be underpinned by anti-oppressive practice not least because we work with people who’ve likely already experienced oppression and discrimination but because social work itself has the potential to become oppressive in its own right. Working with people in an anti-oppressive way requires social workers to challenge potential stereotypes and judgements that they might have subconsciously taken on board and seek to look at the world from the position of people that carry negative labels. For gypsies and traveller’s oppression, racism and human rights violations occur in numerous ways, some of which I’ve tried to capture which causes cycles of exclusion, conflict and disadvantage. It’s important that we’re aware of this and to be culturally informed in order to ensure that we work in an anti-discriminatory way. I read somewhere that the purpose of social work should not be to distribute favours but to restore rights and couldn’t agree with this more.

A significant challenge for social workers is the mistrust and suspicion that they face from gypsies and travellers which isn’t unreasonable due to the forced assimilation and oppression that they’ve faced throughout the years. One way of overcoming this may be through effective use of advocacy services for example the Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project. I’d argue that advocacy is an important role within social work services particularly when working with vulnerable or marginalised groups. Family, kinship and children also play an integral aspect of gypsy and traveller culture and cultural ignorance can lead to misplaced intervention. Gypsy and traveller communities often value home education and the occupational and home making skills which sometimes leads to the early assumption of adult responsibilities however this in it’s own right should not be deemed as dangerous because of the role that kinship and family play within gypsy and traveller culture social work practitioners should consider the possibility that these communities may be better suited to interventions that support family care arrangements as opposed to involving directly provided support this would also be true for adult care provisions. In preparing for assessments or interventions with gypsies and travellers, it’s important that we’ve got a clear understanding of the demographics and socio-economic circumstances.

The acknowledgement and anticipation of potential language or literacy barriers for example by being prepared and willing to read documents, and or explain professional jargon can also facilitate communication. The socio-economic circumstances of gypsies and travellers for example the lack of accessible and or affordable transport can act as barriers to engagement as well therefore it’s important to be aware of these barriers and strive where possible to overcome them again this could be through use of other services. Social work practitioners who are involved in criminal and youth justice services must also be aware of the challenges faced by gypsies and travellers, there’s substantial evidence surrounding the unfounded stereotypes of gypsies and traveller communities in relation to criminality and this can lead to unfair treatment in court disposals.

When I first came to criminal justice social work I attended training about the use of a risk assessment tool that’s used within criminal justice to measure the likelihood of an individual reoffending based on the cultural aspects of gypsy and traveller lifestyle for example regularly changing location and children leaving school before the age of 16 to assume self-employment or to maintain the home, I realise that gypsies and travellers would automatically be at a higher risk of reoffending according to this risk assessment.

The same is true of assessments that are used within children and family services as well. While there’s obviously an evidence base for these risk assessments, I would urge practitioners particularly when working with marginalised groups to make full use of their structured professional judgement as opposed to basing the recommendations and assessments solely on actuarial risk as this can lead to inaccurate and misplaced intervention. Social workers have a duty to provide quality services to those who are oppressed and marginalised within society but they’ve also got a secondary duty and this is to challenge and disrupt the social and cultural processes that marginalise and oppress individuals. By being culturally aware and practicing in a culturally informed manor social workers are taking the first step towards doing this. We have a responsibility to be concerned with the whole person within their family, community, societal and natural environments and we should seek to recognise all aspects of a person’s life. Before I pass you over to Davie, I’d like to end my contribution today by sharing a quote from Walt Disney, it says that you think the only people who are people are people who look and think like you but if you walk the footsteps of a stranger you will learn things you never knew you never knew. And that’s what I urge you all to do today. Thank you all very much for taking the time to listen to me, particularly given those experiencing good weather right now and I’ll pass you over to Davie.

Davie: Hello, and thank you very much for that fantastic presentation Annie as well and some really, really valuable points that I’m really glad you made. So, I’m just waiting for John to load up my presentation. If you hear paper moving about, I’m not being ignorant, I’m reading my notes.

Thank you very much for inviting me along today and I’m excited to talk to everyone so, my presentation contribution is going to be quite general but what I’m hoping to do is to give some practical knowledge around taking a cultural trauma informed approach and also give you some tips and guidance on how to best meaningfully and effectively engage with gypsy traveller communities. So, obviously I’m, as ever, quite ambitious with what I’m hoping to cover today but the key thing is that whilst I’m quite ambitious and it may feel rushed at places and at stages, we will have time post presentation to discuss and hopefully to go into some of the more detailed points around cultural trauma and also how we can relate that to social work practice. So, if you do have any questions or any points that you want to make, please do put it in the chat or the Q and A function as well. So, at the beginning I’m actually keen to take a step back slightly and whilst Annie did a fantastic job of looking over the legislation and some of the impacts of the historical trauma on gypsy traveller communities, I’d like to focus in on 2 particular points. So, gypsy traveller history is littered with persecution and oppression, they have experienced marginalisation of their nomadic culture, been forced into reservations and have even had our children forcibly sent abroad.

It is important that social workers are both aware and professionally critical of the role that both social work authorities and organisations played in the historical treatment of gypsy traveller communities. I believe this is especially important as much of the gypsy traveller mistrust of social work practitioners has its foundation in the forced removal of gypsy traveller children. Now this practice was a direct result of what is commonly termed the 1895 report. Now this report set out to solve what they termed the Tinker Problem, as Annie articulately mentioned a word that has now become out-dated but certainly in the 19th century Tinker was a very common term for particularly Scottish travellers. Now, an enquiry sat in various parts of Scotland to find out about traveller communities and gypsy communities and to report back to the hearing on how this problem, as they termed it, could be solved. The report made lots of recommendations but the key comment that I’d like to focus on was a comment that stated: eradication is the only cure. And it’s this comment from 1900 right on to arguably the mid 1970’s that really characterised the relationship that social work practitioners and social work at large had with the gypsy traveller communities.

Hundreds of gypsy traveller children were rounded up from 1900 onwards and sent to Canada and Australia as domestic and what they termed, farm servants. The children were told their parents had died, they were not able to care for them or they just didn’t want them. Mostly the children were never heard of again. Now, the forced shipment continued until the outbreak of world war one and again after until world war 2. And this chapter in Scotland’s history left a legacy of intolerance toward nomadic children throughout the late 20th century, in which some gypsy traveller victims sadly even the abuse that they faced, they actually took their own lives.

Now, many gypsy travellers who have faced this have actually spoken out and these have included the authors Patsy Whyte who wrote the book: No Easy Road in 2009, and Sandy Reid who wrote the book: Never to Return in 2008 and highly recommend both of those books to everyone on this call to get an insight into the impact and cultural trauma of forced migration. Now, the other point that I’d like to focus on is the reserves for travellers and one example of this can be seen with The Bobbin Mill. It’s a hugely important landmark for Scottish travellers in Perthshire but it is not remarkable for any positive reason.

The Bobbin Mill is a group of now small dilapidated shacks that were built in the 1940’s which were the first attempt at a traveller reserve. Some travellers living in and around Perthshire had to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and live within these shacks or have their children forcibly taken away from them. Many did move into these shacks, some moved out of Perthshire completely but what we do know is that The Bobbin Mill stands testament to the first forced housing experiment conducted by the Scottish state. Another example not too far from The Bobbin Mill is the Pitlochry School. Now, in Pitlochry in 1938 the decision was taken to build a separate school for traveller children. This was at the request of the local community who stated that they would not send their children to the same school as a traveller child. The school’s curriculum was rudimental and to many travellers it felt dumbed down. Now, this school was another clear example of how travellers, particularly our children have been excluded and made to feel marginalised by society. Now both of these examples are in relatively recent history and for some they’re within living memory.

It is interesting how traveller segregation is never really spoken about within mainstream human rights discussions and particularly by professionals whereas we do hear about segregation of African Americans for example in 1960’s America. Now, both of these examples that I’ve shared today are crucial for your understanding of cultural trauma, which I’ll go onto explain in a second but more so they’re crucial to your societal understanding of gypsy travellers.

Where we sit in society and more than anything how the marginalisation of our people isn’t a new thing, it’s been built on a foundation over centuries. So, just with travellers today we experience some of the highest inequalities of any community in Scotland and many of these have been touched on by Annie but indeed the NHS admit that gypsy travellers score high on every single scale of health inequality that they have. And we can see from the statistics that travellers experience higher levels of depression than that of the settled community, higher levels of substance abuse, much stemming from mental health conditions. They’re also 11 times more likely to commit suicide with some reports stating, than the settled community and they have higher infant mortality rates and a lower life expectancy by at least 10 years.

Now, as social workers, you all know that no inequality sits in silos and it is certainly the case when we discuss the inequalities faced by gypsy traveller communities. Studies conducted in the USA with Native American communities have found a direct correlation between cultural trauma and increased levels of depression, lower life expectancy, and many of these other similar health inequalities that link very, very closely to what we see in a Scottish context. Now, there is no reason to suggest that the cultural trauma experienced and embodied by the gypsy traveller community, particularly with the experience of forced child migration and being placed into reserves, there is no way of particularly saying that that is not linked to cultural trauma and therefore linked to these higher levels of health inequality. Now, I’m sure you’re all sitting there saying, right well that’s all great but I don’t really know what cultural trauma is.

What is cultural trauma? I believe it’s really important for social work and particularly their role in engaging with the contemporary gypsy traveller community to understand the theoretical construct of cultural trauma and particularly how that can impact on engagement, how that can impact on the mistrust of social work but also how it can impact in the socio-economic and inequalities that gypsy travellers continue to face. Now, trauma is traditionally understood as having a deeply disturbing personal experience however professionals are now starting to recognise that trauma can also be experienced indirectly and that it is not necessarily the traumatic experience itself that causes the trauma but the remembrance of it and therefore when we have collective memory of a traumatic event, trauma can potentially impact on whole communities through remembrance. Now, this is called cultural trauma. Some examples of this may be found with the Jewish community for example in the Holocaust, another example that I have already alluded to is Native American and first nations peoples and their experience of colonialism as well.

What do the community think? When we talk with gypsy travellers about their socio-economic inequalities and their relationship with social work, they give replies that support the notion that cultural trauma is at play. The responses often talk about the history of child removal, the loss of their tradition, being made to feel unwelcome and their experience of lacking cultural proficiency within the social work sector. Therefore, we can clearly see that the past and the present are not as distinct within the gypsy traveller ontology or world view than what we would see in the settled community and the historical oppression continues to permeate the relations between social workers and the community on an everyday level. So, these are just some of the views that were expressed to me when I did speak to some community members about the socio-economic inequalities and if I just focus on the first one and the last one. So, the first one is, how can we trust, tell me how can we trust when they took our weans? Of course, alluding to social work and the role that they played in the forced child removal and migration. And the last one from a younger person, it was still seen as a risk factor that my daughter had moved house 3 times because I was unsettling her. I don’t even think the fact I was a traveller was taken into consideration by social work.

What we can see there is the intersection between historical persecution and the continual cultural lack of awareness, let’s say, and how that’s continually propagating the inequalities of gypsy travellers face and particularly making it very difficult for social workers to engage with gypsy travellers and for gypsy travellers to engage with social work. So, what can be done? Mang is a traveller word for speak and I believe that whilst we can put across lots of different tool kits to you and we can talk about lots of practical ways that you can make a difference to your approach, of course, with today’s time constraint, I wanted to focus on this particular guideline that I’ve developed. So, if we use mang, we can always effectively and meaningfully engage with gypsy traveller communities because it has the core elements of any meaningful engagement and it also has a cultural trauma informed approach.

Step one, we need to understand the history. I’ve mentioned a couple of points already but I would encourage you to look into gypsy traveller history in your own time perhaps reading some of those books that come from our community as well. Understanding the history is crucial to developing that foundation knowledge of cultural trauma and therefore knowing the impact that may be having on your engagement with the community.

Step two, take a step back and ask yourself, what do I not know yet? Slowing yourself down and seeking first to understand before being understood can help ensure you make a rational unbiased decision. You should also separate the person and the issue at all times. We can all fall victim to bias very easily, our judgement can be clouded with previous experiences or stories that we’ve heard therefore you should always separate the issue and the person to make sure that your approach is unbiased. When doing this, consider proportionality for example, is your planned approach or action proportionate to the same situation had it been someone from a different community?

Step three, acknowledge intersectionality by considering all the parts to a supported person’s identity. I know Kerry’s going to mention a bit about intersectionality and some resource coming from Iriss soon, so I won’t go into that too much but if you’re not familiar with the term intersectionality, it is a very, very important term but in layman’s speak it can be broken down to just understanding the intersections between someone’s marginalised identities. So, if you’re a gypsy traveller and also a woman, you will experience more inequalities than if you had been a gypsy traveller and a man for example.

Step four, navigate cultural pressures, understanding the history, always begin by recognising that gypsy traveller communities might not always trust and indeed the majority of the time, they won’t trust social work from the offset. You must ensure your approach is mindful of the historical trauma faced by gypsy traveller communities that you actively listen to the person you are supporting and you also consider their individual context. I would hope that everyone as a social worker will do this anyway but I think that it is particularly important to bear in mind when you are working with gypsy traveller communities.

The last step but by far the most important is the last step, to gain the confidence of the gypsy traveller communities. Now, you do this by showing transparency, articulating that you are there to help and that you are not just another part of authority but it’s important that you gain the confidence of the communities themselves because gypsy traveller communities do not work with institutions, they do not work with organisations, they work with individuals and a positive experience with an individual can mean a massive difference in the extended community and the extended families working with social work or not and so in some ways what you’re hoping to do is build a rapport with families and through word of mouth building a rapport with the broader extended gypsy traveller community. If you always follow mang, you will be using a trauma informed approach and you will also be having effective meaningful engagement with gypsy traveller communities.

This is by no means the end of the game; we want this to form the first step in a continual journey of working with gypsy travellers. In some ways the history of oppression and persecution has meant that social services and social work have to disentangle themselves from 500 hundred years’ worth of persecution. It’s not going to be done overnight and it’s certainly not going to be easy but I think if you use Mang it can be a good first step on your journey. And I’d just like to end with a quote and you know, this quote to me really sums up the reason that I campaign on behalf of my community … but it also sums up the ambition and the hope that I have for everyone here today that we can actually make sure it happens. Now, to translate it, {sentence spoken in traveller cant} in Scottish traveller cant which is our language, that means travellers will be here until god comes in the afternoon or until judgement day.

It comes from a very, very famous quote from Belle Stewart, a famous ballad singer in our community who was asked: You know Belle, when will travellers disappear? You know, when will we not see any travellers on the road again, when will they die out? And she laughed and she looked at the journalist and she said, “Ach son, travellers will be with us until doomsday in the afternoon.” And I certainly hope that that’s the case and my plea in a sense to everyone here today is to use the approach that I’ve mentioned to think about a culturally informed approach really to your own practice and your own service so we can make sure that this does happen. So, thank you all for your time and I’m hopeful that in our discussion now we can get into a bit more of the flesh of what we’ve all spoken about.

Kerry: Thank you very, very much to Davie and to Annie for those excellent presentations. Right, you’re getting lots of very positive comments there on the chat. Right, let’s stick with the chat for now, if anybody wants to come in in person, please use the ‘raise your hand’ button. I’m going to kick off if that’s okay by asking how is it different in rural communities, if at all because we’ve had previous sessions, I suppose around some of the dual relationships and how it’s very difficult to maintain anonymity and all the complexities of being in a smaller space and I just wondered if either of you wanted to make any comment about that?

Annie: I think if I could just make a comment, what I would say is in terms of the statistics it is perhaps not entirely different in rural communities as it is in urban communities, there’s travellers all over the country. But I think it comes back to a point that Davie had made about working with the individual rather than the institution and I think in rural communities we’ve got more of an opportunity for doing that, for undertaking that work and for building those relationships than perhaps there are within urban social work.

Davie: Yeah, I totally agree with that and just to add to it as well I think that when we talk about rural communities and many of them on the chat may be aware of their own local context and may not have any distinct or visible, let’s say, gypsy traveller communities that they can think of or kind of put their hand to but what I think it especially important in rural communities is that as Annie, quite rightly says there is gypsy travellers throughout the whole country but within rural communities we can often have travellers who are there seasonally and it’s important that we recognise the needs of roadside families but also families who may be shifting so that’s a word that travellers use to basically say travelling seasonally it tends to be, but it’s important that rural social work establishes a relationship with those communities so that when they’re travelling through your area, you need to recognise that they’re going to be travelling through your area every year.

Most of our families follow a traditional path through the country and we travel to the same places, tends to be the same time of year in some cases, for centuries so, it’s important that you establish a relationship with those communities even if they’re not visible all year round so that they know who to come to, so that they know they can trust you effectively when they are in that area because what we need to recognise is that whilst gypsy travellers all face quite similar inequalities for roadside gypsy travellers, i.e. that’s families who live a nomadic way of lifestyle or live roadside 12 months of the year, the inequalities are much more magnified and they can often face severe isolation as a result of living roadside as well so it’s important that social work in rural communities recognise non visible communities who may be there for a portion of the year. I think that’s one of the crucial points for me.

If you are sitting there and you can think, well we’ve got a site down the road or I often see travellers at the Light and Life Church round the corner, someone that might be familiar to you, you know, think about those community hotspots, right. If you don’t have those community hotspots with gypsy travellers, it doesn’t mean you don’t have gypsy travellers in your area but if you do have them in a sense, you’re lucky and please do approach them and please do use those community hotspots as ways to gain better engagement with the gypsy traveller community.

Kerry: Is there anything we can do to help build an effective advocacy service led and run by gypsy travellers? It seems to be lacking on a national basis.

Annie: All I was going to mention was, I think it is something that is lacking nationally but I think it is something that is also getting a little bit better. The service that I mentioned, the Minority of Ethnic Carers of People Project, they do a lot of training and things like that up in Edinburgh, I think that’s where they’re based and whether or not that would be something that we could look to spread a little bit more or to bring more into rural communities. I know in terms of Dumfries and Galloway, in my local authority, we’ve got a gypsy traveller liaison officer so, they are the kind of the spokesperson almost between the council, the local authority and the community which is very effective. So, again I think that’s something that bridges that gap. I think as well at our last rural social work conference I was speaking to the director of BASW for Wales and she was mentioning a new pilot scheme they’ve got running for training for social work professions and things like that for awareness raising, a bit like today really. It also, I think, aids in bridging that gap.

Davie: Yeah. And just to add to that as well, there are some groups who Annie quite rightly said, that the project particularly that MECOPP run is Women’s Voices Project which looks to empower gypsy traveller women particularly on a national level and we have seen other projects from likes of the article 12 of the Gypsy Travel Youth Assembly which no longer exists but I think the crucial thing to recognise when it comes to advocacy and obviously as a Scottish traveller advocate for a few years now I’ve had to grapple with a lot of this as well is that travellers particularly in Scotland gypsy traveller communities have never had a leader right, we can look at some of the historical references to the borders and the border gypsy kings, particularly the Faas and the Marshalls but it’s important that we recognise that their authority let’s say, it didn’t really exist and it certainly didn’t extend throughout the country.

Travellers have always been a people that have been led by individual families indeed the Romany gypsy word for it is the Baro Rom, so the head of the family and what we need to do is we need to recognise that travellers work on a very localised level and that whilst the inequalities can be national and certainly we can see them playing out on a national level, really the conversations I think we need to be having is on that local level particularly between local authorities and local services, local organisations and the communities that use that local geography and again going back to my previous point, just because a traveller community isn’t visible all year round, shouldn’t mean they’re not considered local. Local people should be considered people who use that geography for a portion of the year and so I would like to see much more local conversations happening between stakeholders and partners with local gypsy traveller communities because the needs can be quite different and distinct particularly when we talk about rural communities.

One of the key elements that I’ve been speaking about quite often recently is climate change and the impact that that’s had on traditional ancestral stopping places in rural communities throughout the west coast of Scotland particularly with flooding and changing patterns in terms of land ownership as well, we need to think about those and we need to think about local conversations whilst obviously advocating for a national engagement.

Kerry: We’ve got lots of questions coming in here. Some around dealing with the granular and the relationships and others at more macro levels so, we have somebody asking around if you don’t have an active link in your local community but think you may have something travellers would be interested in, how can you start to make contact? What’s your first step in introducing yourself? And then maybe after that we could look at other comments that are saying, are travellers missing and omitted from the anti-race’s frameworks debate? How do we … is this something that we need to tackle? So, maybe if we stick with those to begin with, they’re quite different.

Davie: I think it’s a really good point and in some ways I don’t have a straightforward answer but going back to a previous comment I made around community hotspots and this is the question that’s talking about how we can approach travellers and how we can tell them about a service, for example. It’s important that we think about those community hotspots, so just to go into them in a bit more detail, I suppose, one of them is of course, a site so that could be a local authority owned site of which there are very few. I think there’s only around 26 or 27 in the whole country, so you may well not have one of those in your local area but it’s also worth noting that there are private sites throughout the country as well, owned by particular gypsy traveller families.

The vast majority of the time either of those permanent sites will be linked with the local authority, be that with the gypsy traveller liaison officer as Annie mentioned, or with local planning so you will have someone particularly a strategic lead on, let me think now who the person would be, usually the gypsy traveller liaison officer but many local authorities don’t have them so there would be a strategic lead within the housing department non the less, within a local authority who will be engaging with gypsy travellers and when it comes to private sites they will have engaged with those people in order to get planning and many are still within the planning framework as well. And so, there are connections to be made even if it’s not quite as visible.

Another community hotspot is the Light and Life Church and I feel like it’s massively underutilised by organisations and local partners in order to gain access to the gypsy traveller community in a meaningful way. The Light and Life Church was established by gypsy travellers themselves. It’s an evangelical church, non the less, what we’ll see with gypsy traveller Light and Life Church is that travellers who are in houses, so often times it can be difficult to reach those travellers particularly because they may not be as visible or they may be deliberately not as visible because they’re worried about the impact discrimination could have on their workplace, or education these types of things but they may well attend the Light and Life Church so, approaching local Light and Life Churches is relatively easy. There’s contact details of all the pastors online and there’s a significant amount of different Facebook groups as well and I do feel that would be a good community hotspot for people to go to.

Whilst I advocate for Light and Life Church as a way in, and certainly a way to engage with gypsy traveller community, it’s worth recognising that some of the beliefs that Light and Life Church hold can be quite evangelical and as a result they may actually compound some of the social inequalities that the person you’re supporting or the people you’re supporting maybe concerned with, particularly LGBT identities that live in our communities as well. So, those are the first kind of steps I’d say in terms of community hotspots. The local partners within the local authority but also really utilising the third sector so we have MECOPP of course and I know Donna and Sherelle are in the chat, we have MECOPP, we have article 12 in Scotland, we also have Progress in Dialogue, we have STEP, who many of you will be linked up with already.

All of these organisations work with travellers on a grassroots level and have active engagement in the gypsy traveller community. So, even if you may not have someone local to you, if for example a partner’s working in the next authority across, they may well be working with people who know other travellers within your area and they can signpost to your service.

Kerry: Quite a number of questions, one was around, I saw some of those structural considerations so, are gypsy travellers left out of some of the frameworks around racial equality and there’s another question that I thought was really interesting around how do we get more gypsy travellers into social work as a profession? Davie, do you want to come in on whether you think frameworks are inclusive of gypsy travellers?

Davie: I think at the national level we’ve seen a massive movement and a good degree of progress in including gypsy travellers in frameworks, at the local level, it’s a different story particularly because we may see gypsy travellers being included on paper in frameworks but actually when it comes to the equality impact assessments and some of the other risk assessments and frameworks that we see, gypsy travellers are left out or the needs of gypsy travellers just aren’t articulated within that document or within that approach.

I think we have seen a movement towards it but as I said in the presentation, I think everyone on here particularly as professionals, we need to, as individuals, do as much as we can to make sure our service is linking with gypsy travellers and that we are considering their needs. They’re often quite distinct and different because of the culture of gypsy travellers within the approaches that we take but for guidance I suppose if people haven’t already seen it, I would urge everyone to have a wee look at the gypsy traveller action plan that was released by Scottish government and we’ve also seen some really good practice coming from STEP and from, particularly one local authority area I should say in the Grampians, we’ve seen a really good interagency approach working there and we’ve seen it in a couple of other areas as well but the key thing there is that social workers can engage with stakeholders and partners from across local authorities and from across sectors in conversations so that they’re actively linked and actively engaged with the communities on all of the issues and again when we come back to intersectionality and that, you know, no inequality happens in a silo, I think engaging with interagency approaches on a local level would be a really good start as well for some social workers who are concerned about frameworks not taking into account needs of gypsy travellers.

Kerry: UK and Scottish policies often group gypsy travellers together with European Roma communities who are a separate group, who faced specific difficulties in discrimination, how do Roma communities fit into social work orientated towards gypsy traveller communities?

Davie: They don’t. So, I can speak in my role as the chairman of Roman Lav in Glasgow and one of the key issues that the Roma communities tend to face is the lack of support. You know, we see a lot of overcrowding for example, in houses, we see a lot of stereotypes and tropes getting played out through the media particularly in reference to child trafficking as well which has a massive impact, as you can imagine, on the grassroots community and their engagement with social work as well.

I think when we talk about frameworks, it’s important to recognise that in Scotland Roma are not considered within the term’s gypsy traveller, neither, I know Sherelle put Showmen in there as well and it’s worth mentioning that neither are showman or what’s termed as occupational travelling groups, none of them are currently thought of under the term gypsy traveller in Scotland.

In England and Wales, it’s different so you have GRT in England and Wales which includes Roma and we also see more and more at the national level in England and Wales, Showmen and other occupational groups and Bargee communities for example being involved in national discussions.

The terminology in Scotland is quite distinct, I can say first-hand that when the European definition of Roma was established a few years back which to bring everyone kind of on the same page, the term Roma talks particularly in Scotland, about what tends to be migrant populations from Eastern Europe, places like Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia those types of places tend to be the heavy demographics of Roma that we have in our country. It’s quite a complex system and it involves quite a lot of identity politics but when Roma was established as the umbrella term, let’s say, by Councils of Europe a few years ago, there was a mass movement against it, particularly in Scotland from other gypsy and traveller communities and I think that may be the reason why Roma aren’t included in the term, gypsy traveller when it comes to Scotland.

Now, that has a massive impact in terms of the lack of recognition of Roma communities in Scotland but also the lack of recognition of the impact that policies and frameworks can have on Roma so, if you do work with Roma communities or you are aware of Roma communities who are trying to access your service, please do get in touch with Romano Lav, you can also get in touch with Community Renewal, both are based in Glasgow, particularly around Govanhill but they do have links to other organisations throughout the country because I know it can be quite difficult particularly when it comes to translation as many of the Roma people speak (… unclear)

Kerry: I’m really sorry, we can’t get to everybody but thank you so much for all your comments and thank you very much to our speakers.

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