Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
This Statement is to update Assembly Members on a number of issues relating to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller inclusion. Firstly, today we are publishing an end of Assembly term review of our progress towards the actions set out in the Welsh Government’s ‘Travelling to a Better Future’ Framework for Action, which was originally published in September 2011.
The Delivery Plan accompanying the Framework included 17 objectives each containing several actions, which we committed to undertake to improve social inclusion of Gypsies and Travellers. We have made great progress towards meeting many of these objectives, including the landmark achievement of introducing a duty on Local Authorities to provide Gypsy and Traveller sites where there is identified need as well as implementing security of tenure for residents on existing sites.
The publication of ‘Travelling to Better Health’ will support Local Health Boards and Trusts in undertaking proper assessments of the health needs of Gypsy and Traveller communities. The publication of ‘Travelling Together’ and the new Gypsy, Roma and Traveller toolkit for promoting equality in schools will support increased understanding of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, make the curriculum more relevant to pupils from these communities and support teachers to settle these pupils in school.
During this Assembly term, we have significantly increased spending on existing and new Gypsy and Traveller sites, including the development of the first new Local Authority sites since 1997 in Brecon (2014) and Conwy (2016)..
Training on Councillors’ responsibilities under Part 3 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 has also recently been delivered to almost 200 local Elected Members, with approximately 80% of those who completed the evaluation stating they are now confident in understanding their new responsibilities.
We have provided funding to Save the Children’s Travelling Ahead project through the Equality and Inclusion Grant to support awareness of rights and participation amongst young Gypsies and Travellers, which has led to the development of a National Youth Forum where community members can discuss the issues which matter to them with decision-makers. Travelling Ahead are also funded to establish themselves as a third party reporting centre for hate crime, which should support increased hate crime reporting from these communities.
However, there is much work still to do to ensure engrained inequalities experienced by Gypsy and Traveller communities are challenged. Educational attendance and attainment rates remain stubbornly low, health outcomes are poorer, unemployment is higher than the general population and discrimination still regularly occurs. Further work will need to be undertaken in the next Assembly term to maintain progress towards equality for these groups.
Today we are also publishing a Consultation Summary on our recent call for proposals on a migrant Roma strategy for Wales. The consultation responses will continue to be analysed as part of consideration of whether specific measures need to be developed by the Welsh Government in the next Assembly term.
Nevertheless, the Consultation Summary clearly shows the majority of stakeholders who responded think there is a need for specific proposals to support migrant Roma communities.