In paragraph 27 of its concluding observations, the Committee stated:
Recalling its general recommendation No. 27 (2000) on discrimination against Roma, the Committee recommends that the State party should strengthen its efforts to improve the situation of Gypsies and Travellers. The State party should ensure that concrete measures are taken to improve the livelihoods of these communities by focusing on improving their access to education, health care and services, and employment and providing adequate accommodation, including transient sites, in the State party. The Committee further recommends that the State party ensure that representatives of these communities are adequately consulted before any measures that impact on their situation, such as those proposed under the Localism agenda, are implemented.
While there has been some acknowledgement by wider society that Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are amongst the most excluded and discriminated against groups in the UK society today, the UK Government has taken no substantive steps to address those inequalities. In many ways the situation of the travelling communities has worsened rather than improved since the last periodic examination.
The UK Government report states, inter alia, at Paragraph 111:‘The Government notes the Committee’s particular recommendation that the Government should strengthen efforts to improve the situation of Gypsies and Travellers, including access to education, healthcare, employment and accommodation’.The report goes on to say, at Paragraphs 113 and 114: ‘113. In November 2010, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government set up an ad hoc ministerial working group on reducing Gypsy and Traveller inequalities. In March 2012 the Group published a report containing 28 commitments from across Government in areas such as education, health, employment, housing and criminal justice… 114. The Government is reviewing progress on these commitments and will publish a further progress report in due course.’ It was uncovered, through questions posed under the Freedom of Information Act and subsequent appeal to the Information Commissioner, that the so-called ‘Ministerial Working Group’ existed in name only: it had met just once and had no plans to meet again. We are thus unclear as to the mechanism under which the “further progress report” reference in para. 114 will be produced, but assume that it will be a document written by civil servants with little or no input from Ministers, nor as a result of any meaningful engagement with civil society.
There is a ‘Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Group’ made up of Gypsy/Traveller organisations, including Friends, Families and Travellers, which meets with civil servants from the DCLG three to four times per annum but there is no evidence that these meetings have any impact on the policy decisions of the UK Government. Indeed the Government announced significant policy changes relating to planning in August 2015, shortly after such a Liaison Group meeting, without having discussed or pre-warned the Group about this policy change.
The different inequalities experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are detailed under the relevant sections of this report. We do not believe that the UK Government’s Integration Strategy is delivering race equality for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma. However we feel that these inequalities could begin to be addressed through the development of a UK Roma Integration Strategy, as required by the European Union Framework for Roma Integration.36 Unfortunately, and contrary to the requirement of the European Commission, the UK Government has declined to produce a Roma Integration Strategy and consequently is pursuing no coherent joined-up approach towards addressing the extreme inequalities experiences by Gypsies, Travellers and Roma. Gypsy, Traveller and Roma groups have called for evidence of progress of this agenda.37