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#WheresOFCOM? Traveller group and campaigners urge action over “toxic” Channel 4 Dispatches show following months of delay

Press Release

 

Immediate release

Date: 26th of November

 

Channel 4 Dispatches’ “The Truth About Traveller Crime” programme that aired 16th April 2020 has since been widely condemned as racist - and prompted hundreds of complaints to broadcasting regulator OFCOM. 

OFCOM opened an investigation on May 26th. Under the broadcasting regulator’s own guidelines, this should have been completed in 50 working days. Yet 6 months on, OFCOM has neither published its decision nor responded to requests for an explanation of the reason for the delay.  

The Traveller Movement today urges OFCOM to explain its inaction over the Channel 4 Dispatches programme widely condemned for fueling racism towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people by promoting harmful stereotypes based on spurious data. 

“This hateful programme has had real negative consequences for Traveller people’s lives. Travellers and Gypsies around the country have contacted us about losing business and having been racially abused by neighbours after the programme aired. Online hate against Travellers has skyrocketed. We are asking OFCOM to deliver their decision and truly hope it will be in our favour. If Channel 4 Dispatches is not held responsible for their attack on these ethnic minorities, what kind of message does it send to the rest of the media and the wider society?” 

Traveller Movement, together with campaigners are urging supporters to call out OFCOM over its inaction, using the #WheresOFCOM hashtag. 

 

ENDS

 

Contacts

 

Patricia Stapleton

policymanager@travellermovement.org.uk

 

020 7607 2002

 

 

Notes to Editor

 

* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.

Traveller Movement annual conference 2020 – GRT campaigners say it’s time to Stop Traveller Hate

The Traveller Movement held its first ever digital conference on the 12th of November. Entitled Our Truth. Our Voice, the conference aimed to address and call out the toxic anti-Traveller narrative that permeated public discourse in the last twelve months. Speakers included MP for Coventry South Zarah Sultana, Chair of the Youth Justice Board, Keith Fraser and Rom Belong programme coordinator, Chrissie Browne.

Conference delegates were treated to a rousing speech by Senator Eileen Flynn, the first Traveller to be elected to the Irish Seanad (Senate). Senator Flynn’s key message was one of empowerment and inclusivity, which left conference delegates inspired:

“We are all different, but deserve equal treatment, and we have equal value. We have to be mindful also of barriers within our community. Let’s empower our young people, even when we know as adults those opportunities are not there. Education is the key. It opens up our eyes to the world.”  Senator Eileen Flynn, TM conference 2020

Since March many new inequalities have come to light as a result of the pandemic, adding to the pre-existing inequalities and social injustice that GRT people have experienced for decades due to government inaction.

Further to that, we have seen increase in toxic media, not helped by the dreadful Channel 4 programme Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime. The conference sought to reclaim GRT voices by providing a platform through the digital conference.

You can follow the conference tweeting from the day at the following twitter feed:  #TMconference2020.

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TMconference2020&src=typeahead_click&f=live

 

CEO of the Traveller Movement Yvonne MacNamara said: we were delighted to welcome everyone online for our first ever digital conference. We were inspired to hear from Senator Eileen Flynn, and we hope it encourages more Gypsy, Roma or Irish Traveller people to get involved in politics. 

Chair Pauline Anderson OBE said: it was a pleasure to deliver TMs first ever digital conference and to see so many familiar faces. I was heartened by the positive discussions and by the young people coming up through the ranks. I think it left us all feeling reinvigorated, inspired and ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

 

ENDS

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller stakeholders and supporters write to Gavin Williamson MP

Members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller stakeholder group at the Department for Education have written to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP to raise their concerns regarding the rise in numbers of GRT pupils moving into elective home education. The letter calls for immediate action and asks that GRT pupils be prioritised during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

 

Date: 09th of November 2020

 

Dear Mr Williamson,

RE: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils

We are members of the Department for Education Stakeholder group for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. Some of us are leading NGOs, practitioners, former teachers, NEET advisors and activists. 

While the officials overseeing this group at the Department have always been very helpful, we are writing to raise our concerns that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils are being further disadvantaged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have written to you previously to raise these concerns[1].

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils are some of the lowest attaining pupils of all ethnic groups[2]. They have some of the highest rates of exclusions[3] and the lowest rates of attendance[4]. Over 35% of Gypsy/Roma pupils are receiving Free School Meals (FSM), one of the key indicators of disadvantage[5]. These issues have not improved in recent years and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated all pre-existing inequalities, as well as creating some additional ones. For example, digital exclusion and the lack of home learning supports during the recent lockdown meant Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller pupils are now even further behind their school peers. A recent report by the Education Policy Institutes suggests Gypsy/Roma pupils were already 34 months and Traveller of Irish Heritage 23.8 months behind their peers at the end of secondary school[6].  These recent gaps in their education will prove detrimental to their educational outcomes without targeted supports.

Since September, we have seen a significant rise in pupils moving into elective home education which is hugely concerning given the educational deficits and low levels of literacy amongst some Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents, with many removing their children from school rolls as they are both fearful of Covid-19 and find that their children are very far behind in their studies.

We suggest the Department acts urgently to put additional supports and resources in place in order to prevent more children from falling through the gaps, and to get those children newly in home education back to school.

We collectively suggest the following actions be taken:

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils are in dire need of technological support such as laptops, tablets and/or mobile data devices. Whilst some have been provided through local authorities, many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils are falling between the gaps.

  • We urge you to review your decision to scale back the provision of technological devices and consider the needs of communities like Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils who are largely not being served through the current policy interventions.

We are deeply concerned about the rise in elective home education among Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils, and we suggest this situation be urgently monitored.

  • The DfE should gather enhanced ethnic data on children moving into elective home education, to monitor which groups are disproportionately impacted. We also urge you to monitor the extent of off rolling and school exclusion at this time.

Whilst there is currently a DfE Stakeholder group for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, this needs resources and investment in order for it to be able to function effectively.

  • There needs to be an action plan, with specific and measurable outcomes with a timetable for execution.

While we welcome the National Tutoring Programme, we have some concerns as its efficacy as we are not aware of any specific efforts or conversations taking place to reach out and make sure Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are being proactively engaged. 

  • We believe there needs to be targeted interventions to ensure that these children do not fall any further behind their peers.

Further, any new policies put in place must be equality impact assessed to ensure that they are not further disadvantaging these pupils.

Finally, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils should be included as a named category within the forthcoming research to assess level of catch up requirements for school pupils in England. Given their overall weak attainment, it will be a major oversight if they are left out.

We are sure that you will make a decision that is right and fair, and that children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds will get the help that they need. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Kind Regards,

Chelsea McDonagh

 

Co-signed by:

Mihai Bica, Roma Support Group

Natalie Stables, Salford Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service

Paul Sayers, Luton Roma Trust

Helena Kiely, Really NEET Project

Emma Nuttall, Friends, Families and Travellers

Samson Rattigan, Friends, Families and Travellers

Lisa Smith, ACERT

Chair: Baroness Janet Whitaker

 

[1] https://travellermovement.org.uk/news-news/125-open-letter-to-the-department-for-education-don-t-further-marginalise-gypsy-and-irish-traveller-school-pupils

[2] https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/education-skills-and-training/11-to-16-years-old/gcse-results-attainment-8-for-children-aged-14-to-16-key-stage-4/latest#by-ethnicity

[3] https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/education-skills-and-training/absence-and-exclusions/pupil-exclusions/latest#main-facts-and-figures

[4] https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/education-skills-and-training/absence-and-exclusions/absence-from-school/latest

[5] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/latest_percentage_of_pupils_elig

[6] https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/EPI_2020_Annual_Report_.pdf

Press release - Traveller Movement conference to address racism and discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers

For immediate release

Date: 11th November 2020

 

National conference to address racism and discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers  

‘Our Truth. Our Voice’ conference to turn tide on damaging anti-Traveller stereotypes

 

On Thursday the 12th of November national equality charity, the Traveller Movement[1] will host its annual conference online. This year’s conference will address the toxic anti-Traveller rhetoric that has permeated politics and the media in the past twelve months. From the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s recent anti-Traveller comments during a public meeting, to the discriminatory Channel 4 programme Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime, anti-Traveller narratives in public spaces have become normalised, and anti-Gypsy prejudice frequently goes unchallenged. 

The ‘Our Truth. Our Voice’ conference will challenge these narratives and turn the tide on racist anti-Traveller stereotypes, as well as hearing from a host of inspiring speakers, politicians, and activists. The key note address will be delivered by Senator Eileen Flynn, the first Irish Traveller ever appointed to the Irish Seanad (Irish Senate). Senator Flynn will share her inspirational journey to the Seanad with conference delegates, and discuss the importance of Gypsies and Travellers getting involved in politics. 

Other speakers include the chair of the Youth Justice Board, Keith Fraser, activist Luke Smith, and King’s College London’s ‘Rom Belong’ programme coordinator, Chrissie Browne. Also speaking at the conference is Dr Omar Khan, formerly of Runnymede Trust and Director of newly established Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO), as well as MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana, and Jennifer Moses, Equalities Lead with NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union.  

Now in its thirteenth year, and usually the highlight of the calendar, the Traveller Movement has moved this year’s conference online in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, so delegates can join from the comfort of their own homes. To register for the conference, please visit Traveller Movement’s website here: https://travellermovement.org.uk/news-news/145-our-truth-our-voice-traveller-movement-annual-conference-is-going-online-12th-november-2020

TM Chair Pauline Anderson OBE said: we are delighted to bring everyone together online this year to have a full day dedicated to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, shedding light on the positive work and excellent role models challenging the toxic narrative in politics and the media. This year we are turning the tide on negative anti-Traveller stereotypes, and asking people to cut it out once and for all.

CEO of the Traveller Movement Yvonne MacNamara said: While the year has been disruptive, it remains important that we meet to discuss the work being done to raise awareness and reflect on how we as a sector can work together. Anti-Traveller racism has not gone away, if anything, it has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and we must continue to challenge those stereotypes collectively and ensure that Traveller voices are heard.#

 

ENDS

Interviews: people are available for interview before or after the conference.

 

Contacts

Patricia Stapleton

T: 020 7607 2002

E: policymanager@travellermovement.org.uk

W: https://travellermovement.org.uk/

 

Notes to Editor

* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://travellermovement.org.uk/

Traveller Movement and leading activists call for apology from Home Secretary over anti-Traveller comments

The Traveller Movement has written an open letter to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel asking that she apologise for comments made during an event where she referred to Travellers as criminal and violent.

The letter has been signed by parliamentarians, academics, NGOs and activists.

First reported in Travellers’ Times on September 22nd, the Home Secretary was speaking at an online event hosted by the Board of Deputies for British Jews. When asked about site allocation for Travellers, the Home Secretary said the following:

"The Home Office's work in this particular area actually refers to some of the criminality that takes place, and that has happened through traveller communities and unauthorised encampments. Now that's very different to gypsy and roma communities. The two are absolutely separate. Where we have seen criminality, violence taking place."

Responding to the comments, the letter points out that Gypsies and Travellers are ethnic groups protected from race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010:

“You have a duty as a public figure to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and encourage good relations between all groups. Your comments not only pit ethnic groups against one another; they also single out an entire ethnic group as criminal and violent.  As you will be aware, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers experience some of the highest levels of discrimination, hate and hostility of all ethnic groups.”  

The letter calls for a retraction of the comments, as well as a full apology from the Home Secretary to Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

The letter can be read in full here

Commenting on the letter, the Chair of the Traveller Movement Pauline Anderson OBE, said: We are shocked to hear such comments being made by the Home Secretary. She effectively brands a whole ethnic group as violent and criminal. This wouldn’t happen to any other ethnic group. It’s a disgrace.

Also commenting, CEO of the Traveller Movement Yvonne MacNamara said: we find these comments objectionable in the extreme. Gypsies and Travellers already experience very high levels of discrimination and are often reluctant to report hate crimes committed against them. Now we know why!!. These comments are vile. We demand an immediate apology from the Home Secretary.

 

ENDS

Contacts

 

Name

Patricia Stapleton

020 7607 2002

Email address

policymanager@travellermovement.org.uk

 

Notes to Editor

* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.

 

Visit the Traveller Movement website here: https://travellermovement.org.uk/

 

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The Traveller Movement is a national community charity promoting inclusion and community engagement with Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

The Traveller Movement seeks to empower and support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to advocate for the full implementation of their human rights.

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