Traveller & Roma inclusion requires whole of Government approach – report says

A new report published by the European Commission says Government progress on Traveller health and accommodation urgently needs to pick up pace.

The report from the Roma Civil Monitor shows that the Government approach to achieving equality for Irish Travellers through the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy ‘is piecemeal and based on small scale projects or pilots’. 

Need for strategic whole of Government approach

The report also points to a distinct failure in a whole of Government approach with different government departments handing off responsibility to other government departments and executives.

In the meantime, Traveller health and homelessness have worsened.  

Sub standard Traveller accommodation North Dublin ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Traveller homelessness up

Latest figures from local authorities show that of a total of 8,102 Traveller families, across the 24 local authority areas with complete data, 1,332 families (16.44%) are on the homeless continuum, that is, in emergency homeless accommodation, living in overcrowded accommodation, or living on the side of the road or on an unauthorised site.    

Worsening health crisis

The report states that Traveller organisations are concerned at a crisis in Traveller mental health with a perception of rising rates of suicide – which were already at 6 times the national rate in 2010.   A Government consultation process took place in 2018 in relation to a National Traveller Health Action Plan – but such a plan remains unpublished.

Education cuts negative impact

Poor outcomes for Travellers in education also remains a problem.  Cuts to Traveller specific educational supports in 2011 are contributing to this and no strategic approach is being developed at the Department of Education and Skills.

Lack of data

The report also looks at the impacts of lack of data collection.  Ethnic equality monitoring in Ireland remains the exception rather than the norm, the report states.  As a result, policy, planning and national strategies continue to be developed in the absence of evidence regarding the situation and experience of Travellers and Roma.

Leadership needed from Health and Education Depts

The report calls on the Department of Health and the Department of Education and Skills to take a ‘leadership role’ in driving strategies to ensure Traveller and Roma inclusion.  It also calls for a five year suspension of the reserved function of elected city and county councillors to veto Traveller accommodation so that Traveller homes can be built.

Read previous Roma Civil Monitor Reports on NTRIS