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Gypsy/Travellers

The term 'Gypsy/Travellers' refers to distinct groups – such as Roma, Romany Gypsies, Scottish and Irish Travellers – who consider the travelling lifestyle part of their ethnic identity.

We are committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for all of Scotland's Gypsy/Travellers, a particularly marginalised group.

Census data and Gypsy/Travellers

The 2011 Census was the first to include a tick box for Gypsy/Travellers in its ethnicity categories. This means the census has enabled baseline data for Gypsy/Travellers to be developed across a range of areas including accommodation, health, education and employment.

In the census, 4,200 people identified themselves as 'White: Gypsy/Traveller' (it is likely that some chose not to). Organisations that work with Gypsy/Travellers believe Scotland's community comprises 15,000 to 20,000 people.

We are working to ensure equality for Gypsy/Travellers by integrating their needs into policies such as health, education and social services.

Some of the main actions are summarised below.

Improving educational outcomes

Young Gypsy/Travellers' educational outcomes are amongst the worst in Scottish education. We know that school attendance rates are the lowest of any ethnic group and exclusion rates are the highest, and that many Gypsy/Traveller children do not make the transition from primary to secondary school.

Those who are mobile may face interruptions and a lack of continuity to their education. And whether mobile or not, children and young people from the Gypsy/Traveller community, or from any Traveller culture, may need support to overcome barriers to their learning.

Through the Scottish Traveller Education Review Group (STERG), we have developed the guidance 'improving educational outcomes for children and young people from travelling cultures' to:

  • set out the context for supporting all Traveller children and young people and their families
  • encourage an understanding of the challenges they face in engaging with the education system
  • support schools and local authorities to offer effective, inclusive approaches

The draft guidance is open to public consultation until 28 May 2017. We encourage members of the public to see the guidance and respond to the consultation.

We also fund and support the work of the Scottish Traveller Education Programme (STEP).

Anti-bullying strategy

Concerns over bullying and harassment have been given as one of the reasons preventing children from Gypsy/Traveller communities attending school.

We are refreshing the National approach to anti-bullying for Scotland's children and young people by developing up-to-date anti-bullying guidance which reflects policy and legal developments, and recent research.

The guidance will help schools and local authorities to develop their own policies and ensure that all types of bullying are dealt with effectively.

Social care

According to research most disabled Gypsy/Travellers and carers do not access social care services regularly.

We introduced the Self-directed Support (Scotland) Act 2013 to promote choice and control in social care delivery.

We funded MECOPP (Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project) to help organisations working with the Gypsy/Traveller population to access self-directed support.

The National Carers Strategy for Scotland 2010–2015 identified that Gypsy/Travellers required further support.

We provided £17 million between 2010 and 2016 to provide short breaks for unpaid carers. These breaks are promoted to the Gypsy/Traveller community through the Travellers' Times.

Housing adaptations pilot test sites

Despite the community's young age profile, Gypsy/Travellers face high levels of disability.

Adaptations play a major part in helping disabled people to live independently. We are piloting the Independent Adaptations Working Group's recommendations in five test sites across the country (Borders, Fife, Falkirk, Aberdeen and Lochaber in Highland).

In each area, housing associations and local councils' housing teams are working with health, social care and third sector organisations such as Care and Repair.

The pilot will run until the end of 2016. We will issue guidance on good practice after the pilots are evaluated.

Local housing strategies

Local housing strategies set out councils' plans and priorities for housing and housing-related services, including those for Gypsy/Travellers. We review the strategies to ensure the needs of Gypsy/Travellers have been considered and addressed.

Guidance on minimum quality standards for Gypsy/Traveller sites

Gypsy/Travellers living on sites owned by councils have the right to the same quality standards and level of service as tenants living in social housing. To make it clear what standards are expected, in 2015 we published guidance on minimum site standards and tenants' core rights and responsibilities.

The guidance aims to:

  • make conditions better on sites by establishing whether site improvements are needed
  • increase awareness among Gypsy/Travellers about their rights and responsibilities while living on sites owned by councils and housing associations

Minimum site standards

Minimum site standards are now part of the Scottish Social Housing Charter as part of its review in 2016. This gives site standards the same legal status as the Scottish Housing Quality Standards.

Site providers have until June 2018 to make sure their sites meet the standards. Gypsy/Travellers living on sites owned by councils must be provided with secure tenancy agreements. Site providers are expected to reflect the rights and responsibilities in the guidance in the individual tenancy agreements they have with tenants.

Unauthorised sites

Gypsy/Travellers have a right to their traditional way of life, but that right must be exercised responsibly, and balanced against the rights of the wider community.

While many unauthorised sites do not cause any problems, on a small number of sites anti-social behaviour can be an issue (both from those living on the site and the settled community around it).

Managing unauthorised camping by Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland: guidance for local authorities was published in 2017.

The guidance reflects the principles that:

  • unauthorised sites should be managed to minimise disruption for all concerned
  • the same standards of behaviour should be expected from all members of the community

It was developed with stakeholders including local authorities, Police Scotland, Gypsy/Travellers and equality groups.

Planning

Many Gypsy/Travellers prefer to live on private sites, which can help support their independence, self-sufficiency and security. But they have often found it difficult to access the planning system and get the appropriate permission to develop their own sites.

Making provision for the development of private sites can help Gypsy/Travellers to maintain their traditional lifestyle.

And approval of more Gypsy/Traveller sites, which are sound in planning terms, could also ease accommodation pressures for the community as a whole, and potentially reduce the number of unauthorised encampments.

The Scottish Government funded a project by PAS (formerly Planning Aid Scotland) to increase awareness of the needs of Gypsy/Travellers in accessing the planning system.

It resulted in five planning guides. They were published in April 2015 and aimed at Gypsy/Travellers, planning professionals, elected members, community councillors and the media.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) was published in 2014. It requires councils to plan for the current and future needs of the Gypsy/Traveller community, and to involve the community in planning and decision-making which affects them.

Scottish Ministers have made it clear that they want Scotland's plan-led system to be more effective and that plans need to be up-to-date, place-based and enabling.

Background

Our analyses of the 2011 Census in relation to Gypsy/Travellers:

National Records of Scotland have consulted on the topics for the 2021 census.