Disabled people from Gypsy Roma Traveller communities need better services, study warns

The report, ‘Including the Missing Voices of Disabled People in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Community’ concludes that disabled people from the community are put off from accessing health and social care services because of past experience of discrimination in mainstream society, putting pressure on family members and other community members to plug the gap.

Surveys, interviews and focus group research of over 150 people from GRT communities highlighted delays in accessing aids and adaptations, as well as health and social care services, with respondents saying providers were often reluctant to visit GRT sites.

Participants generally agreed that everyday living was more arduous if living on a GRT site, especially for disabled people and their carers.

The research highlights the stigma of disability in GRT communities, particularly in regard to men and mental health. It also highlights the potential role of disabled people’s organisations in supporting disabled people from GRT communities to have a louder voice in policy development on disability issues. The report contains links to four videos made by GRT community members which are designed to illuminate the voices of lived disability experiences.

Dr Peter Unwin, Principal Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Worcester and co-author of the report, said: “There’s an estimated 300,000 people from Gypsy Roma Traveller communities living in the UK. Disabled members of those communities can face double discrimination because of both their family background and their impairment or long term health conditions.”

The report’s recommendations include more investment for ‘community connectors’, who help support and link GRT communities to wider society, to increase their knowledge of disability issues and improve their links with disabled people’s organisations; and increased outreach by disabled people’s organisations to ensure people from GRT communities are involved in service and policy development.

The project was led by the University of Worcester and the disabled people’s organisation ‘Shaping Our Lives’. It was supported by a grant from the £5 million DRILL programme (Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning) – the first user-led disability research programme in the world. DRILL is fully funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Becki Meakin, General Manager of Shaping Our Lives said: “This research provides a breakthrough in terms of directly hearing from disabled people and their living in GRT communities. It’s important we build on this work so they continue to have a voice on the issues that affect them.”

Jason Smith, who is deaf, said: “There is a stigma around speaking out about disability. We’re a marginalised group within an already marginalised group. This can make it hard to get information or access to the support and things that can help.”

Kamran Mallick from Disability Rights UK, which manages DRILL in England added: “The research highlights the extent of discrimination disabled people from GRT communities face. Organisations need to do more to ensure that disabled travellers have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. DR UK is following up the research with traveller organisations to ensure that the voice of disabled travellers is heard by both DPOs and those in power whose decisions impact their lives.”

To find out more about DRILL, or to download a copy of ‘Including the Missing Voices of Disabled People in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Community’, go to http://www.drilluk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Missing-Voices-FINAL-report.pdf