City of York Council’s Cabinet is being asked to consider proposals to tackle inequalities faced by the city’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
The York Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Strategy 2013- 2018 is setting out proposals to support this long-established community to overcome barriers to access to suitable accommodation, policing, justice and probation, health, education, employment and financial services.
Addressing inequality across the city is one of City of York Council’s primary commitments, as set out by the York Fairness Commission and the York Equality Scheme. Besides these sources, the strategy has also usedevidence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in their report ‘Simple Solutions for Living Together’ (2009), which suggested that nationally:
- life expectancy for Gypsy and Traveller men and women is 10 years lower than the national average
- Gypsy and Traveller mothers are 20 times more likely than the rest of the population to have experienced the death of a child
- in 2003, less than a quarter of Gypsy and Traveller children obtained five GCSEs and A*- C grades, compared to a national average of over half.
In May 2012, consultation began with local residents and a range of partner organisations including City of York Council, York Travellers’ Trust, the Citizens Advice Bureau, health partners, the National Farming Union and North Yorkshire Police.
The consultation had at its heart, York’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, of which it is estimated that there are approximately 350 households living in York. By exploring the significant and complex issues relating to Gypsy Roma and Travellers communities across York, the steps required to improve the opportunities and outcomes for one of the cities biggest minority ethnic groups were identified.
During the five-year period of this strategy, marked improvements are anticipated across all six themes identified, including;
- a health needs assessment to provide the evidence needed in order that healthcare resources are targeted most effectively
- increasing levels of literacy among adults able to support their children at school and thereby enabling higher levels of attainment amongst the children
- an increase in the availability of land for travellers to develop sites and the condition of the cities three sites
- there will be an increased awareness of the culture and traditions of the community through training and communications to front line service providers, elected members and other key stakeholders
- improvements in the uptake of benefits and increased numbers accessing adult education, employment and training.
York Travellers’ Trust is leading a community event for summer 2013 as part of the priority to promote community cohesion and address inequalities issues city-wide.
Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Housing and Adult Social Care, said: “This is the first multi-agency Gypsy and Traveller strategy for the City of York and, should it be adopted, marks a significant opportunity for collaboration to improve community cohesion and engagement and improve the lifelong outcomes and opportunities of this distinct community.
“The consultation on the Local Plan is already dealing with the pressing matter of access to accommodation, and more action will ensue to address other areas of inequality.”
Councillor James Alexander, leader of City of York Council said: “Public feedback is essential on all aspects of the Local Plan, which is why we are conducting such an in-depth consultation.
“Many York residents are living in overcrowded conditions, including Gypsy and Travellers. York’s draft Local Plan will help to address this through identifying sites for more homes. It will also deliver the current unmet need for 36 traveller pitches across the city, as identified in 2008.
“The previous draft Local Development Framework included the same commitment. We want to work positively with all York communities to address the location of all new proposed homes. If a Local Plan cannot be agreed, Government will impose the location of traveller sites and permit uncontroll ed development in the draft green belt.”
Stephen Pittam, a trustee of York Travellers’ Trust, said: “To transform the position of York’s Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community, progress is required both on how council services are delivered to the community and on how the voice of the community can be strengthened and heard more clearly by all statutory agencies in the city.
“The capacity to participate needs to be built within the community and Travellers themselves must be empowered to engage with the process of change. Engaging with the council’s partners, particularly in the voluntary sector, will be an important way of moving forward in relation to empowerment.”
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