Women and Equalities Committee publish report on Tackling Inequalities in Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities - positive step forward or missed opportunity?

On Friday the 5th of April the Women and Equalities Committee publish the long awaited report into the inequalities faced by Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities.

While we are encouraged to see the report pick up on so many of our recommendations, such as the inclusion of GRT ethnic categories in the NHS data dictionary, some welcome recommendations in relation to education policy and a cross departmental strategy to address the systemic racism and discrimination, we also see this report as something of a missed opportunity.

The report highlights a systematic failure across public services to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), in particular the need to have due regard to foster good relations between communities. This is a welcome acknowledgement. In particular, the report highlights how PSED training seems to focus on how to prevent frontline staff from behaving in an overtly discriminatory manner, rather than tackling the roots of the problem. This is an important acknowledgment, as discrimination is not only overt it is systemic, and quite often embedded in policies at public sector level.

However, we are disappointed in some of the language used in the report as it unfortunately perpetuates some of this racist stereotyping. From the summary the authors state the following;

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have every right to live their lives according to their values and beliefs within the law that that applies to every UK resident. But we have concluded that actions that fall outside the law are not as effectively tackled by local authorities, law enforcement agencies and other public bodies as they are for settled communities.

What the authors should have said is that public authorities and other such public entities have failed in their duties to provide effective services and not put the onus and responsibility back on vulnerable community members. The accountability lies with public authorities to provide services and uphold their public sector equality duty.

It is also disappointing that the disproportionality within the criminal justice system is not highlighted.

Traveller Movement CEO Yvonne MacNamara said:

The failure of statutory services to implement PSED is an ongoing concern and one that needs to be urgently addressed.  While training public sector workers is welcome we believe there should be greater accountability for those organisations found to be in breach of the duty. Perhaps this is where greater focus should be in the future.

A full link to the report can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmwomeq/360/full-report.html#heading-9