For some time a number of local authorities and other public bodies have recognised the value of employing people from Gypsy and Traveller backgrounds. The idea is to break down barriers and improve trust between official institutions and the people that they are here to serve. There are teachers and teaching assistants, home school liaison officers, youth workers, police officers, health workers, adult basic skills workers and social workers, often working with the whole population, and with a specific remit to promote the inclusion of their own communities. More recently schools, police forces, fire services and councils have recruited Roma from Eastern Europe to carry out similar roles. With the reduction in local authority budgets, voluntary sector organisations have increasingly developed an advocacy and liaison role. Some of these organisations are community led and their staff are often called upon to intervene in order to improve relations with service providers.
The first Congress of Roma mediators from the Council of Europe/European Commission ROMED programme took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. As well as Roma mediators and trainers from several different countries, participants at the event included EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and the Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General for Roma issues, Jeroen Schokkenbroek. A message from the Council of Europe Secretary General was transmitted by video and is available on line. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0HkGn0DNbs&feature=youtu.be
This quote, taken from an participant evaluation, sums up the atmosphere at the first session of the UK ROMED training programme was held at Luther King House in Manchester from December 4 – 8 2012.
25 trainee mediators from Roma, Gypsy and Traveller backgrounds from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales took part. They were very positive about having been selected for the training and appreciated the successful learning experience for everyone involved.
The participants gelled as a group, enjoyed learning about each others’ cultures and rapidly developed in confidence as they took part in the training activities. They appreciated the participative delivery style and the friendly and supportive approach of the trainers and welcomed this unique opportunity for networking and sharing of professional knowledge and experience.
Applications closed on Thursday November 15th for the Council of Europe course for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller mediators. There was a good response with over 50 people applying for 27 places. ACERT, which is organising the course on behalf of the Council of Europe, has offered places to all applicants who have Gypsy, Roma or Traveller ethnicities, completed their applications by the deadline and said they could definitely attend the course. Those who were not offered places may still have the opportunity to attend if initial offers of places are not taken up. Unfilled places will be offered on Wednesday November 21st. If there is a significant number of disappointed applicants ACERT will make the case for another course in the future.