Powerful support for Monbiot’s criticism of police powers consultation

The Guardian publishes Lisa Smith’s letter supporting George Monbiot’s article condemning Priti Patel’s consultation on the extension of police powers against unauthorised camps.

Lisa wrote:

George Monbiot is correct to call out Priti Patel for playing the race card in the run-up to the election (Journal, 14 November). In April, the House of Commons women and equalities committee concluded its inquiry into the inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It concluded that “Leadership from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government … has been lacking” and called on the Cabinet Office “to create a specific work stream for eliminating Gypsy and Traveller inequalities”.

Unauthorised camping is a symptom of the lack of a coherent strategy across government, local and national. The Criminal Justice Act 1994 criminalised unauthorised camping and gave the police extensive powers. It didn’t solve the problem, and neither will the proposals in the consultation. In fact, in response to Dominic Raab’s consultation launched in 2018, around powers for dealing with unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller camps, the National Police Chiefs Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners rejected calls for a clampdown on unauthorised sites and said “criminalisation of Travellers was not the answer”. It instead called for a “significant increase” in the number of permanent and temporary sites across the country.

The women and equalities inquiry was a serious and thorough effort to improve the situation for the benefit of everyone. This consultation, with its online survey app format and leading questions, is just the opposite.

Lisa Smith Chair, The Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers

This eminently sensible and reasonable approach stands in stark contrast to the Conservatives’ same old law and order response.

We will tackle unauthorised traveller camps. We will give the
police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities. We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence, and we will also give councils greater powers within the planning system.

Tory manifesto (p.19)

ACERT EC discussed a request from Adrian Jones – Policy Officer, National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups – to respond as individuals and as an organisation.

…. the more responses we can encourage the better. If the Government wants to play the numbers game let’s outnumber them.

Adrian Jones

EC members who had completed the questionnaire as individuals commented on its subjective nature and amateur format. They felt that ACERT shouldn’t complete the questionnaire because it would be “…tantamount to collaborating with the Nazis.” Instead we will draft a letter to the Home Secretary, along the lines of Lisa’s to the Guardian, and encourage other organisations to sign it.

Mental Health Questionnaire for Travellers

ACERT EC vice-chair, Tyler Hatwell, is a Fairground Traveller, founder of Traveller Pride and a trained psychotherapist. He’s trying to find out more about the experiences of mental stress and their efforts to find support.

He has compiled a survey and asks us to draw it to the attention of as many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller individuals and organisations as possible.
The survey is here. It is completely anonymous.

A still from one of the short “It’s Kushti to Rokker” film series
It’s Kushti to Rokker is an education and community filmmaking project by Rural Media. A group of young people have been working with writers and filmmakers to create a series of short films about health, wellbeing and diversity based on their real-life experiences to inspire and support other young people to seek help.

The workshop at the Traveller Movement conference addressing these issue was very well attended and suggests there is much to be done in this area.

Heads up: National Gypsy, Roma Traveller Education Network Event

Date: Friday 26th June 2020

Friends Meeting House Manchester

Time: 09:30 – 17:00 

The recent Race Disparity Audit revealed that young people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities experience severe educational exclusion. The closure of many Traveller Education Support Services and as a result the closure of the National Association of Teachers of Travellers (NATT+) in 2018 has left a gap in provision.

Many families have been left with no one to turn to when dealing with their children’s education. School teachers no longer have a support network to help them understand best practice to include Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils and promote their achievement and opportunities.

ACERT believes there is a need for a network that supports both professionals, schools and families to ensure every child gets the opportunity to reach their full potential. Our aim is to bring people together and build strong relationships in and across Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities by upskilling professionals and better informing parents.

Our aim is to host an interactive community-led networking event for: voluntary sector, professionals, TESSs, schools, LAs, alternative providers, H&FE and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents and carers.

Our Objectives are to: 

  1. To provide an opportunity to celebrate and share examples of good practice 
  2. To create a network of support for parents and families, schools and other education settings working towards removing the barriers to educational inclusion so that every child can reach their full potential.
  3. This event will be an opportunity for practitioners to up-skill and consolidate existing knowledge and for parents to become better informed about their child(s) education.

Put the date in your diary and watch this space.

Using the law to address discrimination

Marc Willers QC and Tim Baldwin, Garden Court Chambers, set out an overview of the discrimination and socio-economic disadvantages experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the UK which, despite equality legislation and legal protection for their traditional way of life, has changed little over recent years.

The failure of policy-makers to address the inequalities they experience was highlighted by the Women and Equalities Committee report: Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. The authors review recent Strasbourg and domestic discrimination case law relating to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

They conclude by identifying some goals to make better use of human rights and equalities legislation both as part of bringing cases and campaigning to improve protection for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.