The criminalisation of trespass in the UK Police, Crime, Courts & Sentencing Bill, and the de-facto restriction of the franchise contained in the Elections Bill, will both have a profound impact on the GRT community; not only in terms of policy outcome but in terms of the message the UK Government is sending to a community marginalised community with a distrust and fear of public institutions.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic young Gypsy Roma and Traveller people faced the most adverse outcomes across several indicators in health, housing education, criminal justice, economic and political inclusion. We know beyond any reasonable doubt that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and the UK Government’s policy response – in both public health and public order – has disproportionately affected minority communities. We also know that the pandemic has had a profound effect on young people across society and, as such, young Gypsy, Roma, Traveller people a facing a form of double discrimination.
The UK Government’s national strategy to reduce GRT inequalities – first announced in June 2019 – has stalled at exactly the moment where it is needed the most. As a matter of urgency, the UK Government must kick-start its commitment to this strategy; both to reduce inequalities and as a step to build faith and trust within GRT communities.
Despite this lack of progress, there is strong leadership across the civil service to progress outcomes for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. This conference will bring together these civil service leaders with community members, local Government representatives, and stakeholders in the third sector in order to discuss how the path forward, in such challenging circumstances, can be charted.
As the co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on GTR, I am pleased to deliver the keynote address and endorse this conference. The panel events on economic inclusion and the schools-to-prison pipeline reflect policy issues of fundamental importance to the community and will present the chance for stakeholders of all stripes to share best practice, what works, and what can be improved in the pursuit of more equitable outcomes for GRT Youth.
Simultaneously, community representation in each of the panels and workshop events will give young members of the community the platform to articulate and advocate for their own priorities directly with decision makers.
It is my hope that the topics and areas under discussion this Thursday will offer
opportunities for policymakers, service delivery organisations, and advocacy organisations alike to reflect on their own work through the lens of new perspectives that the conference will undoubtedly provide. The conference is part of a wider, ongoing process as opposed to a standalone event; and I look forward to seeing what changes and progress are made over the coming twelve months.
Sláinte, sonas agus beartas,
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP SNP