Facilitated by Professor Colin Clark
Colin’s response to the report was slightly less glowing than Arthur Ivatts’.
The report uses deficit terminology without offering explanations:
- economically inactive
- less healthy
- less well educated
- lower attainment
- outdated attitudes
- domestic violence
It focuses on England without acknowledging the different situations existing in Scotland, Wales or the North of Ireland.
There is no recognition of Government Policies, such as austerity, as explanations for, for example, the loss of Traveller Education Support.
Lord Bourne, who could be seen as a potential ally, has resigned from Government over Brexit and has now been replaced by Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark. He is raising his 3 daughters in the Jewish faith, which might suggest a greater sensitivity to issue of culture and identity, although his voting record does not support this.
The Ofsted’s response is dismissive. “We’re already doing that.”
Every Government Department has to have a strategy in place by the end of 2019. “How many people in this room think that’s going to happen?” It’s good to have something down on paper but we need to take account of the context. The Government has other priorities right now, and keeping the pressure on is going to be really challenging.Colin Clark
Even where Roma are mentioned, it is in the context of the Controlling Migration Fund; if ever there was a fund with an agenda built into it…Even when these communities are being mentioned, it is in a very particular light. It’s the same kind of criticism that Muslim communities have been making of the Prevent programme, internal policing, monitoring and surveillance
There’s a vagueness (many “should”s, few “must”s) in the recommendations which lets people with power and responsibilities off the hook, and there’s a lack of accountability.
Sue Mutter (formerly of Redbridge Traveller Education, now Roma Support Group, and ACERT EC) felt there was a deliberate intention to ignore the progress that has been made, and the failure to learn the lessons from experience. However, she is empowered by the young people and providing community leadership in a way that teachers could not.
Margaret Greenfields recognised data collection as an alternative to getting to grips with the issues and creating change.
Isaac Blake mentioned the support of ESTYN (Welsh Inspectorate) for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the National Curriculum, but nothing will change until there is a budget heading for it.
Arthur Ivatts found too many recommendations put responsibility onto Local Authorities. Where are they going to get the money from; they’ve been cut to the bone?
Thomas Acton believes that in the 1970s and 80s progress was made in Traveller Education because it was less contentious than the alternative of site provision, which was advocated by the more militant organisations (bad boys). Traveller politics is about divide and rule.
It is also about building alliances and communities of support. In Brentwood there are 18 sites, 17 private and one on church land. The churches have lobbied for provision and made their resources available.
Jonathan Herbert from the Ecumenical Churches Network, an organisation bringing together Catholic, Roma Pentecostal, Light and Life, Church of England, MethodistsSalvation Army.
Jonathan wrote a report on Racism towards Gypsies and Travellers which was discussed at the Church of England General Synod and a motion making 3 recommendations was carried 263/1:
- Church leaders should speak out against racism against Gypsies, Roma and Travellers
- Appoint chaplains (such as Jonathan who is responsible for Dorset and Wilshire) to the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
- Make church land available for sites.
Thomas Acton has said it is “moderately historical” for an institution to say something pro-Traveller! There’s some hope as long as we keep the pressure on.
Lisa Smith agreed that the report focused on disadvantage rather than disempowerment. The term anti-Gypsyism is accepted across Europe as equivalent to anti-semitism and Islamophobia. We are trying to get the Labour Party to adopt the term so that politicians stirring prejudice against Travellers can be disciplined.
David Landau of Redbridge Equalities and Community Council agreed that alliances could increase effectiveness. For example, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are not the only group suffering disproportionately high rates of exclusion.