Julie James, Leader of the House and Chief Whip
During Business Questions on 16 January, I committed to updating Members on policy relating to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. When I took up this portfolio, our ‘Enabling Gypsies, Roma and Travellers’ plan was already out to consultation. This document set out proposals for how the Welsh Government would be seeking to improve access to advice and services and reduce inequalities experienced by these communities. Today we are publishing the consultation summary document, which can be found here:
During the last couple of months, I have been undertaking a series of visits to Gypsy and Traveller sites and meetings with Councils across Wales to discuss in particular the fundamental issues of access to good quality accommodation and improved engagement with communities, as well as specific concerns relating to each site.
Although we are making good progress towards adequate Gypsy and Traveller site provision, it is too slow in some areas. We want to ensure ingrained inequalities are challenged but this will not be fully effective without sufficient residential and transit site development. To further support this, we have encouraged local authorities to bid for our Gypsy and Traveller Sites Capital Grant and we intend to publish an updated Gypsy and Traveller Sites planning circular later this spring. The Welsh Government will also be reviewing local authority compliance with Part 3 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 during April and May to help me identify areas which are not complying as fully as they should.
It is clear from my visits that engagement between these communities and public authorities could improve significantly. It is incumbent upon public authorities to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between Gypsies and Travellers and wider society but it is clear that this will not be effective unless the principles of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act ‘5 ways of working’ are utilised. Gypsies and Travellers must be involved in discussions about matters which affect them and collaborative solutions sought. We are working to try to improve opportunities for this through a range of mechanisms but I would also urge other public authorities to consider this too.
I have also been discussing with Cabinet colleagues what more we can do as a Government to support Gypsies and Travellers. I intend to delay publication of the new Gypsy, Roma and Traveller plan until June 2018 to allow time for us to consider the outcome of these discussions. I will also bring a further statement to plenary to coincide with its publication.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.