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.

ACERT Submission to the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry

Margaret Wood and Lisa Smith have compiled an excellent submission to the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities.

The submission covers a range of issues with which ACERT members and supporters will be familiar, but brought together in one document they comprise a powerful indictment of this and the previous coalition governments’ indifference and hostility to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights and inclusion.

It covers the failure to recognise or build on the achievements of the Labour Government, the inadequacy of the Ministerial Working Group Commitments, the impact of cuts and funding change and the unleashing of xenophobic and nationalist sentiments by the Brexit debate. Women and Children suffer disproportionately from the consequences of austerity and the submission doesn’t pull its punches. 

Ofsted recommends more support for Roma pupils

Overcoming barriers: ensuring that Roma children are fully engaged and achieving in education has said that children from Roma backgrounds must be better supported to learn and achieve, after figures revealed the number of “Gypsy/Roma” pupils enrolling in English schools increased by 13.7% to 19,030 over the past year. The watchdog surveyed three local councils and 11 schools with a large intake of Roma pupils from Eastern Europe. Although head teachers reported no adverse effect on the achievement of other pupils already in their schools, some schools had struggled to get pupils to follow school routines and behave appropriately. Ofsted recommends that local authorities should ensure that there is a dedicated and knowledgeable senior leader who can push forward the local authority’s strategies for improving outcomes for Roma pupils. The report went on to note that some schools have felt obliged to meet the costs of lunches, uniforms and trips for Roma pupils despite not receiving funding to do so.

Some key points noted by ACERT include:

  • Strategies for including Roma are the same as used by Traveller Education Support Services and highlighted in the National Strategies Guidance, NFER research etc.
  • A few schools seem to have had a significant numbers, but overall there is nothing in the report to justify scare stories in some sections of the press.
  • Case Studies are provided from Manchester, but not Derby and Sheffield. Other case studies come from schools in Leicester and Kent (not in the focus areas of the survey)
  • There is strong endorsement of specialist support services and a powerful quote from a Roma support worker confirming the value of proactive rather than reactive interventions.
  • It mentions the problems for the schools and families resulting from their ineligibility for Pupil Premium.
  • There is also support for induction by high quality experienced qualified specialist teachers, and explicit criticism of Teaching Assistant led classes.
  • Concerns were raised about high levels of mobility, coordination across agencies and monitoring within schools.

Government progress report on Gypsies and Travellers published

The Government yesterday published its progress report called “Tackling Inequalities for Gypsy and Traveller Communities”.

This report will be discussed at the next ACERT Executive on 1st May after which our response will be published here. The Executive is open to all ACERT members (although space is limited).

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