Who are the UK’s Gypsies and Travellers?

Romany Gypsies are the descendants of a migration of peoples from Northern India in the 10th to 12th century CE, who spread across Eastern and Western Europe, reaching Great Britain in around the 1600’s.

Irish Travellers – or Pavee – and Scottish Travellers – are the descendants of a nomadic people who have traditionally inhabited Ireland and mainland Britain.

Roma usually refers to the descendants of the migration of various groups of peoples from Northern India in the 10th -12th century who settled in Eastern and Western Europe.

But they don’t travel?

Today, many Gypsies and Travellers may no longer ‘travel’ regularly, due to factors such as lack of transit sites, or stopping places, or because of health or education, or lack of work. However, travelling remains an important part of their identity and heritage even though they may only ‘travel’ to traditional cultural events like Appleby Horse Fair.

The lack of safe stopping spaces has had a large impact on nomadic ways of life, and many Gypsies and Travellers have had to move into housing, but this does not mean they lose their culture or their ethnic status.

What are Gypsies and Travellers’ experiences of discrimination, disadvantage and harassment?

Gypsies and Travellers experience severe and continued discrimination in education, health, employment and the criminal justice system despite a number of legal protections. “Great Britain is still like the American Deep South for black people was in the 1950s. Discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers appears to be the last “respectable” form of racism.” (Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality) (BBC News 17.10.04. www.news.bbc.co.uk)

Why do Gypsies and Travellers sometimes set up sites without permission?

The lack of site provision and the barriers they encounter in trying to set up their own have left many Gypsies and Travellers without the basic right to accommodation. Local authorities have a duty to ensure adequate accommodation provision for all, including Gypsies and Travellers whether that is the development of local authority run sites or granting planning permission to families who have purchased appropriate land for site development.

Gypsies and Travellers who are effectively ‘homeless’, due to not having a pitch on a site to park their trailers on, have no choice but to pull up on land that may not always be appropriate. People also set up temporary camps for other reasons such as having to access medical or welfare services, repairing vehicles, or just resting whilst on the road to the next place. Usually, family groups stay for a few days then move on.

If they camp on other people’s land, private owners, local authorities and the police have a range of different powers to move them on.

Why don’t they join in with the wider community?

Gypsies and Travellers are a part of the wider community and live by the same rules as everyone else. They pay taxes, rent and utilities. They work as teachers, probation officers, police officers, nursery managers, community workers, shop workers and run businesses but due to discrimination many choose to keep their ethnic identity a secret. With reduced discrimination and increased access to mainstream services like health and education it will become more common to meet Gypsies and Travellers.

Why do Gypsies think they are above the law?

Like all people, a small number of Gypsies and Travellers engage in anti-social or criminal behaviour. The majority of Gypsies and Travellers are law-abiding citizens who want criminal behaviour dealt with by the law. Unfortunately the media perpetuates the myth of all Gypsies and Travellers being labelled as blameworthy and fails to report on the many positive contributions of Gypsies and Travellers.

I’d like to help local Gypsies and Travellers – what do I do?

Start by following us on social media and lobby your Local Authority to provide adequate provision of pitches and adopt a Negotiated Stopping approach to encampments. We also have a volunteer section please click here.

I am a Gypsy or Traveller, how do I get support?

Call us on 02920214411, or on our social media channels linked below.

I am a professional, how do I access support or advice?

Call us on 02920214411, or email info@gtwales.org.uk.

Can you help me with my benefits or housing or problems with debt?

Yes, call us on 02920214411, or email info@gtwales.org.uk.

I need support, but don’t want my family knowing about it. How do I know you won’t tell them?

We offer a confidential service. That means that whatever you tell us, is confidential to our service. We will not tell anyone else that you are using our service, or give any information about you, without your permission, except in very specific circumstances – if you tell us you or someone else is at immediate risk of harm. However, we would not tell family, friends or anyone else unless you told us you wanted us to do so.

How long does tenancy support last?

The tenancy support service is a very busy service. However, to ensure the clients are fully supported, support is flexible and is based on client need. There are no set limits. The support level will be assessed on a regular basis with the client and in some circumstances may be referred over to the employment and support project which also gives support to learn basic skills which assist with managing UC accounts and setting up and maintaining a tenancy.

Do you support Gypsies and Travellers living in bricks and mortar?

Yes, we do. We support all Gypsies and Travellers in the Cardiff area, on plots, in bricks and mortar accommodation and whom have no fixed abode.

We can also offer support if you live in other areas of Wales, or signpost you to more local organisations who are better placed to support you.

Has Covid-19 changed the way you support your clients?

Now that the pandemic is over we have gone back to working from our offices at Trowbridge Community Centre where people can also make appointments to see us. We are also once again carrying out regular site visits. However, we do now work remotely more so our staff may not always be based full time in the offices.

If you call our advice line for support or to speak to a particular member of staff, please be aware that they may not physically be in the offices and we may have to pass your message on to them.