Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children – advice for all
There are several different groups of Gypsies and Travellers living in England, including Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers and New Travellers and Circus and Fairground families.
Some cultural values and traditions are shared, including a nomadic lifestyle or heritage. The other thing they share is a high level of discrimination and prejudice in their daily lives and great difficulty in maintaining their lifestyle and heritage. They are disadvantaged in many different ways including access to health care, education, and secure accommodation. As a result, life expectancy is significantly lower than the national average. Under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act all public bodies have a duty to promote equality for Gypsies and Travellers.
Survival guide to child protection for Roma parents
Law for Life has created a Survival guide to child protection for Roma parents.
This resource was developed in partnership with three Roma organisations: Roma Support Group (London), Clifton Learning Partnership (Rotherham) and Roma Community Care (Derby). The Roma community was involved at all stages of the project: from consultation about the community’s concerns and understanding in regards to child protection; through involvement in the design of the resource.
Law For Life are in the process of making a short film illustrating key elements of the legal framework and the skills needed to fully comply with the child protection requirements. The film will be narrated by Roma community members in Romanes. Their aim is that these resources will be used by children’s services in order to help them make the legal frameworks more accessible and engage more effectively with Roma families.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children – CSE resources from the Children’s Society
As part of an initiative in West Yorkshire, The Children’s Society have been looking at how Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities can keep their young people safe from child sexual exploitation.
As a result of this, a range of resources were produced to support communities and professionals and carers working with them. These include an animation which was the idea of a group of young people working on the project; an accompanying workbook; and some posters and leaflets translated into the main community languages of Romanian and Slovak.
Find out more and access the resources at www.childrenssociety.org.uk
For further help or information about child sexual exploitation visit our CSE resource or go to:
- CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection)
- The Children’s Society information and advice about CSE.
Supporting east-European Roma families
Knowledge about Roma history, culture and tradition can help practitioners working with migrant Roma families. The Roma are the largest ethnic group in Europe without their own state, and are among the most vulnerable and marginalised. They have possibly the lowest educational attainment, the shortest life expectancy and their level of unemployment is significantly higher than any other comparable ethnic group in Europe.
In an updated guide for Community Care Inform the Roma Support Group provided essential information about Roma history, culture and tradition, to help social workers engage with Roma families in a positive way. A few key points from the guide are given below.
Working with Roma families through interpreters
When working with migrant Roma families the presence of an interpreter is often required in order to facilitate communication which can prove to be a challenge due to linguistic problems and the lack of Roma interpreters.
Discrimination within the education sector and/or lack of access to quality education and limited contact with public services has had a great impact on vocabulary and understanding of various concepts. Therefore, professionals working with Roma families should be aware that concepts (such as parenting mentoring, assessment, care plans, support plans, direct payments or mental capacity) and professionals’ roles and remit (for example, social workers, guardians, foster carers) need to be explained in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
Barriers in accessing health services
Roma Support Group casework suggests that Roma individuals in the UK encounter difficulties in accessing health services due to lack of documentation or lack of understanding of health system procedures. for example, Roma families have been unable to register with GPs because they were unable to provide official documents such as proof of address or a children’s immunisation records; or because their nearest surgery was not accepting new patients and they did not understand that it was possible to register with a different surgery.
In terms of health issues, much of the research on the UK Roma population describes their health status in conjunction with that of gypsies and travellers. While these groups are culturally distinct, gypsies, Roma and travellers do exhibit certain similarities in health status, including:
- higher rates of long-term illness, health problem or disability
- more problems with anxiety and depression
- evidence of lower childhood vaccination rates, although these studies are too small in scale to be representative.
Although these trends point to common challenges in accessing appropriate health services, general statements regarding gypsy, Roma and traveller health may oversimplify the unique challenges that each group encounters in interacting with health service providers. In the case of the Roma, their language, culture and length of residency in the UK differs from those of gypsies and travellers, making language barriers and lack of prior experience in UK health systems important factors in determining the ease with which they are able to access services.
Working with Roma families in a safeguarding context
Many Roma parents have excellent parenting skills. However, some Roma families might struggle and would benefit from parenting classes. When offered appropriately, parents are happy to participate and use acquired skills. The terms ‘parenting classes/ parenting mentoring’ are very confusing and often misunderstood by parents. For this reason, it is worth explaining which topics would be covered and how they would help. However, many Roma families distrust social care professionals due to experiences in their countries of origin.
Friends, Families and Travellers is the only national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsies and Travellers regardless of ethnicity, culture or background; visit their website at www.gypsy-traveller.org
Bristol City Council have prepared a booklet and leaflet in partnership with a group of Gypsies and Travellers to provide a more accurate picture of their lives and to promote better relationships with settled people. Find these documents at www.bristol.gov.uk/gypsies-and-travellers where you can also find other useful resources.
The Travellers’ Times website provides news, features & information for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people; find out more at www.travellerstimes.org.uk