Bucks New University reports call for policy changes to tackle marginalisation of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma communities

The failings within the criminal justice system and health and social work sectors for members of the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) communities – along with policy recommendations to tackle the issues raised – are highlighted in reports published today (21 April).

The reports outline the findings of seminars attended by leading European academics, UK civil servants and expert practitioners working within the criminal justice system, health care and social work sectors. The ‘Bridging the Gap between Academics and Policy Makers’ sessions were funded by the European Academic Network on Romani Studies, the Council of Europe and Buckinghamshire New University.

The seminars were convened by Professor Margaret Greenfields, Director of the Institute of Diversity Research, Inclusivity, Communities and Societyat Buckinghamshire New University who led a coalition of academic partners including colleagues from the Universities of Warwick, Bristol, Plymouth, Hull and Greenwich.

Highlights of the reports’ findings include:

– GTR significantly under-represented as victims (particularly when reporting hate crimes) but significantly over-represented as offenders within the criminal justice system;

– Inequity in morbidity and mortality rates when Roma and non-Roma are compared, most starkly in relation to life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality rates;

– Call for training of professionals to ensure the GTR communities are treated with the same awareness and sensitivity as other minority and majority communities;

– Need to overcome barriers of language, communication, understanding of service provision and trust to enable access to services by Roma;

– Effective data monitoring required to identify and track progress in meeting EU-wide targets on reducing inequalities.

Professor Greenfields said: ‘Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are particularly vulnerable ethnic minority groups who have been marginalised, discriminated against and excluded for centuries. In recognition of this fact, there are duties placed upon EU member states to reduce inequalities. Despite this, change has been slow and discrimination and inequalities occur across multiple domains both in the UK and in wider Europe, impacting on human rights and life chances. Systemic change is urgently required to address the issues of social exclusion, oppression and discrimination. The ‘Bridging the Gap’ seminars, convened and supported by a partnership of academic and civil society organisations, have identified best practice, policy recommendations and the need to build bridges across policy areas.

For example, simple and cost-effective solutions would consist of ethnic monitoring in line with other groups, to map equality of treatment, processes and outcomes. Access to adequate numbers of high quality ‘sites’ for nomadic Travellers would reduce inter-community conflict, fiscal cost and human suffering while simultaneously improving access to education and health care for members of the communities. Cultural competence training delivered to health and social care staff, the use of ‘mediators’ and competent Romanes speaking translators would also minimise the risk of misunderstanding and reduce costs to the public purse associated with avoidable health deterioration or unnecessary interventions.  Evidence-based policy is key to bringing about equality and a fairer society for Roma and other marginalised groups which inevitably benefits all those resident in the UK.’

Professor Greenfields will today (22 April) address the ‘Policies for Roma inclusion: The contribution of academic research’ event at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. This is the closing event for the funding stream which has supported the Bridging the Gap expert seminars. Professor Greenfields will outline her assertion that a symbiotic relationship exists between research, ethical policy making and Roma empowerment.

PDF links to the full press release and executive summaries of the reports are available here.

To read the full news report, click here.