COVID-19 Action on Traveller & Roma Inequalities Must be Continued in Programme for Government
Home > News > COVID-19 Action on Traveller & Roma Inequalities Must be Continued in Programme for Government
Critical to mitigating COVID19 within the Traveller and Roma communities during this crisis has been the partnership approach adopted by the HSE, government departments and Traveller organisations.
The level of
interdepartmental work now underway had not been seen before COVID19 and has
enabled some timely and effective responses.
action around COVID19 is encouraging,” said Martin. “It shows where there’s a will, there’s a
that health and well-being is something that crosses Government
Departments. It shows that you do not
need a massive budget to make a major impact.
forward achieved during COVID19 indicate the best way to harness this energy is
to operate on a whole of government basis and continue this progress.”
“We need an overseeing
body that would help drive and co-ordinate the work in housing, health,
education and employment and bring maximum effectiveness.”
Lessons from COVID19
“The HSE was clear in its approach to COVID19 as a public health issue and this approach impacted on the Department of Housing,” explains Pavee Point Co Director Ronnie Fay. “In March a letter was issued by the Housing Department to local authorities indicating basic facilities were to be supplied where needed.
“Extra space for self isolation was to be accommodated. Electricity was to go where it is needed. Sanitation was to be provided. People living on the side of the road were not to be left without any supports.”
the COVID-19 crisis Pavee Point has been meeting with the Health Service
Executive on a regular basis as part of a COVID-19 response – in terms of both
Travellers and Roma.
other national Traveller organisations there has also been liaison with the Department
of Housing, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the
Department of Education and Skills and Rural and Community Affairs.
So far €1.7
million has been spent in improving Traveller living conditions around the
country. Trailers have been provided to
ease overcrowding, units have been refurbished. Families have been connected to
electricity supply and site works have been carried out.
“These moves are unquestionably positive however, they are
also relatively modest and bring into stark relief the lack of progress on
these issues in recent years,” says Martin Collins.
“Around the country some local authorities are still mired in
inaction and bogged down in the conscious or unconscious discrimination
associated with some aspects of inertia.
“But we must cling to
the positive which offers a good practice model to be continued for the future,”
says Mr. Collins.
changed everything. We must ensure that
the positive changes and ways of working become the ‘new normal’.”
Groundwork Already In Place
Vital to any
success has been some of the basic infrastructure already co-established with
Traveller organisations in the areas of health and accommodation.
Traveller Primary Health Care Projects around the country have been
communicating government COVID19 information to the Traveller community in a
way the community can understand and trust.
Community Health Workers have also been monitoring suspected and confirmed
COVID19 cases in the absence of an ethnic identifier in state data collection
information has been crucial in identifying clusters, organising testing and
helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” explains Ronnie Fay.
projects have been supported by Regional Traveller Health Units and Regional
and National Traveller Health Networks.
Now that the
value of ethnic data can be seen, a question on ethnic group is to be included
in COVID19 data collection systems.
Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee has been an effective
communications channel for identifying and monitoring the work needed to be
done on official and unofficial Traveller sites around the country.
was identified and followed up on by local Traveller organisations around the
country as well as national Traveller organisations.
Mitigating COVID19 – Mitigating Inequality
infection rates in general are at 4%, Pavee Point estimates that infection
rates are at around 12% among Travellers.
This is not
surprising given the high level of chronic disease already existing in the
Traveller community, overcrowded living conditions and lack of access to basic
excessively high figures of 50% and 60% infection rates have been bandied
around but do not stand up to scrutiny.
is true that without widespread adherence to social distancing and cocooning
restrictions – infection levels could be much higher.
were some publicised and unacceptable breaches of restrictions by a minority of
Travellers – it’s clear that the majority have done their best in difficult
circumstances and, like the population in general, need to be encouraged.
Pavee Point will continue to work with other Traveller
organisations using a human rights based Community Development approach to
ensure that inequalities for Travellers and Roma in key areas are eliminated.
Pavee Point will also continue to build on our learning from
ongoing COVID-19 work on violence against women, education, drug and alcohol
issues and national and international information sharing and practice
“We cannot go back to
stagnation and inaction after COVID-19 ,” says Martin Collins of Pavee Point. “We need to make sure that this crisis
is used to bring about positive change. We need to hold firm to the gains that
have been made and Travellers and Roma need to be made a priority in any
Programme for Government.”