Policy into practice - Traveller communities
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
THE ISSUE: Traveller families are among the most misunderstood and frequently misrepresented families in Britain.
There are up to 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers living in Britain today, many of whom feel alienated from important family services and professional support. The nomadic population suffers the highest rates of infant mortality and illiteracy of any ethnic group and has the lowest life expectancy. While there are some positive initiatives tackling the needs of Travellers, a greater priority must be placed on giving young people from Traveller communities the same level of respect, professional help and sense of community belonging that is enjoyed by their peers.
CASE STUDY 1
Travellers' Times is an online publication featuring news, opinion pieces and new media communication from within Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Developed by The Rural Media Company, it was developed in recognition of the fact that many young Travellers are becoming increasingly savvy and enthusiastic about online media and it chimes with life experienced on the move. The publication, www.travellerstimes.org.uk, is widely read in Australia and the US as well as in the UK and has achieved almost 10,000 visits since its launch in April.
CASE STUDY 2
The Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service has been working in Leeds since 1975. It establishes strong links between Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and early years centres, nurseries, schools and colleges that provide educational opportunities for these families. The service, which is part of Education Leeds, has managed to work with other departments to extend the range of services available.
The service's achievements to date have included a national award for its Leeds Traveller Family Learning group, the celebration of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month and recognition from Ofsted that the service is a core strength of Education Leeds. It has also witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children accessing nursery, primary and high school education. Last year the organisation helped place 37 children from these communities into early years provision, 227 into primary schools and 118 into secondary schools.
Anne Longfield is chief executive of 4Children