Dept of Health needs to take responsibility in tackling Traveller health inequalities – Oireachtas hears

Pavee Point calls today for a long term plan – focused, strategic and resourced – to tackle Traveller health inequalities at the Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community.

Patrick Reilly and Senator Colette Kelleher at the publication of the final report of the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health.

Speaking to the Committee Patrick Reilly, Mental Health Worker, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre said “We’re tired of the status quo. Traveller organisations alone cannot take the burden of addressing these issues. We have done our part in responding to this crisis by developing local responses within existing budgets which are already under resourced.

“We need a long-term plan- one that is focused, strategic and resourced if we are serious about having better outcomes.”

Mr. Reilly added that the Department of Health seems to have absolved themselves of any responsibility for Traveller health as was evidenced in the recent draft of the Traveller Health Action Plan and the Department’s refusal to re-establish the Traveller Health Advisory Committee which hasn’t met since 2012, despite support by Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D.

“Traveller organisations are ready, willing and able to work in partnership with the Department of Health to address Traveller health inequalities, we need strong leadership from the Department to make this happen,” Mr. Reilly said.

Stark inequalities in Traveller health is evidenced in:

• A 15-year life expectancy gap between Traveller men and men from the majority population

A 12-year life expectancy gap between Traveller women and women from the majority population

• A suicide rate in the Traveller community thatis 7 times the majority population, accounting for  1 in 10 of all Traveller deaths 

Representatives from Traveller organisations who presented to Oireachtas Committee.

Mr. Reilly went on to make key recommendations including:

• Prioritise access to universal health care for Travellers

 • Publish and implement the National Traveller Health Action Plan as a matter of urgency, including theestablishment of an implementation body with ring-fenced budgets to drive deliveryand implementation

• Protect and resource the Traveller specific health infrastructure that currently exists 

• Prioritise the implementation of a standardised ethnic identifier across all health services

Please read the full opening statement. Read our full submission. See the report of Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care