The Government response to the inequality report

Arthur Ivatts OBE

Arthur Ivatts gave a detailed review of the Women’s and Equalities Committee inquiry – “Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.” and considered the response from the minister responsible, Lord Bourne.

key documents

  • The report was published on 5thApril 2019,
  • On 6th June a new national strategy to tackle Gypsy, Roma and Traveller inequalities announced by (Communities Minister) Lord  Bourne and
  • On 23rd July Lord Bourne replied in detail to the calls for action from Government in the report.

He explained that, although originally sceptical, he found that it was a well-informed and researched document with trenchant findings and recommendations. It’s a very, very good report takes us forward substantially in the campaign for justice for these communities.

  • The report is very impressive and reasonably comprehensive with objective sourcing, marshalling and analysis of the evidence.
  • It focuses on inequalities in: data collection; education; health; Roma-specific issues; discrimination and hate crime; and violence against women and girls.
  • It draws welcome and sound conclusions based on known needs and Equalities legislation and is unrepentant in placing blame where it should be – on government, local authorities; Ofsted and others!

key findings

  • “GRT people have the worst outcomes of any ethnic group across a huge range of areas…”
  • “…there has been a persistent failure by both national and local policy-makers to tackle them in any sustained way.”
  • “The Government accepts that GRT are the most disadvantaged people in the country and have poor outcomes in areas such as health and education.”
  • “..the communities are currently being poorly served by policy-makers and public services.”
  • “Leadership from the MHCLG on tackling inequalities in GRT communities has been lacking.”
  • “When we spoke to Ministers, we became concerned that there was a pattern developing whereby departments would fund small-scales projects and then, regardless of success or failures of these, would neglect to role them out in any meaningful way.”
  • “We have found that trust is low between Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and public services, due to historic and ongoing discrimination.”
  • “Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people feel that they are, at best, ignored and, at worst, actively discriminated against in public services and policy making.”
  • “Many parents, schools and local authorities are letting down Gypsy and Traveller children.”
  • “The historical approach that the UK Government has taken to the EU Roma Framework is lacking in focus and has yielded little if any positive outcomes for Roma communities.”

What an indictment of government!
And long over-due!

Arthur Ivatts

THe Government’s response

Elective Home Education – “The Department for Education believes that there is no basis at present for increasing the powers of Local Authorities to inspect or monitor the quality of education provided at home”

Role models – “Regarding the recommendation for Government to increase the capacity of community organisations that are working with schools to provide role models from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, DfE does not currently have any plans to fund organisations on this basis. Schools, local authorities and multi academy trusts are best placed to choose the services they purchase.”

Selective licensing of rented accommodation – If a problem, “MHCLG [Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government] would expect the local authority to consider introducing a scheme to address the problem.”

Pupil premium – “DfE does not have any immediate plans to change the way in which pupil premium funding allocations to schools are determined..”

Additional funding to schools and English as an additional language – “National Funding Formula” adequately covers for this!

Data collection and health care – Some progress, but specific GRT focus weak and submerged in the general equalities duties/accountability systems – NHS England “…have no plans to change this.”

Children missing education and DFE national audit – “… central government does not have powers of audit over local government.”

School Exclusions – basically the Minister says “Just read the Timpson Report”, but statistics lie! Chances of permanent exclusion for GRT children is the highest, “but once controls are applied for poverty, SEN, absence and other factors – the likelihood drops from 5.2 to 0.8. The Timpson report goes on.. “This is not to say we should not be concerned about the higher rates of exclusion for children who are from Gypsy, Roma or Travellers of Irish heritage.”

“I hope this letter addresses your concerns. We are looking forward to working further with the Committee to develop the new cross-government strategy and remain firmly committed to tackling the serious disparities that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities continue to face.”

LORD BOURNE OF ABERYSTWYTH

Arthur provided an insider’s view of the many ways in which governments can avoid acting on the recommendations of select committees. But he believes that Gypsies, Roma and Travellers would not have been included in the Race Equality Audit if they hadn’t been included in official statistics, and organisations like ACERT and NATT lobbied for the creation of the ethnic categories to reflect race equality legislation.

Clearly action has to be seen to be taken because of equalities legislation and powerful national and international, official [e.g. EHRC] and NGO [e.g. Liberty] infrastructure for human rights and anti-discrimination is in the wings.

Much to look forward to! Women and Equalities Committee’s report is now an official agenda.

Arthur Ivatts