Engaging with Gypsy Travellers in Kinross-shire

Supporting a minority group to build links

Engaging with Gypsy Travellers in Kinross-shire

Led by: Perth and Kinross Council

Community Capacity Building worker and Adult Learning worker

 

Summary

CLD workers got in touch with an almost invisible population of Gypsy Travellers who were not getting access to services and opportunities. They worked with people to identify their own issues. Participation in learning and other activities has increased and a group that is looking outwards to the wider community and engaging with national issues is being built.

Background

Although Kinross-shire as a whole is a relatively affluent area, the Perth and Kinross Community Plan and the Work Plan for the CLD service encourage services to reach out to marginalised, socially excluded groups. Workers saw that there were Gypsy Travellers’ caravans in the area, but had no contact with the residents. They established that this community was not accessing any of the services available to them.

The Loch Leven Community Campus was opened in 2010. As well as Kinross High School it includes library, museum, sports, art, drama and other facilities. The CLD service’s local Community Capacity Building (CCB) worker is based there and part of her remit is to promote wider use of the campus.

The Kinross-shire area in fact has several traveller sites. There are no recreational, play or educational facilities on any of the sites, which are in difficult to access locations with no bus stops or pathways. The traveller community places a high value on literacy, but young travellers aged 11 – 15 years often do not attend school or learning activities, other than those provided by the family and peers.

Actions taken

A CCB worker and an Adult Learning worker spoke initially to the site manager of one site, who was happy for them to make contacts. No-one had previously talked to the travellers about the services available.  The workers also met with key partners to investigate possible opportunities to engage people. They went on to identify and include all the local sites.

The workers made regular visits to the sites to establish and build relationships and to provide information about services, events and activities in the area.  From the very early stages of engagement travellers proved receptive to the support on offer, as well as discussing the issues they would like to address. Issues identified by the travellers included:  services to provide learning for children not enrolled in school, education on site for children, information about college courses for teenagers, outdoor safe play areas for children, support with Driving Theory, and a need for a safe bus stop.

Whilst engagement on the sites continued regularly, traveller only activities were organised at the Campus. Transport from all sites to the campus, lunches and crèche were provided.  Workers from CLD, including Youth Workers, and from the Minority Ethnic Carers and Parents Project (MECOPP) promoted activities. Gypsy travellers increasingly contributed to developing and planning the activities for women, children and young people.

  • Easter and summer holiday programme:  health visitors, therapies, art activities, access to laptops, museum, cookery, therapies, arts and crafts, sport
  • A Family Literacy Group: presently working toward the achievement of an ASDAN[1] qualification in Values, Culture and Beliefs 
  •  Literacy provision for young girls, where they have written about their culture
  • A family photography project which has enabled participants to display photos about their lives to a Perth and Kinross wide  travellers’ gathering
  • CV writing with young people
  • Visit to the Scottish parliament to give evidence.

Traveller culture supports working in family groups, and this in turn has been conducive to allowing the whole CLD team to work together.

The travellers involved aim to become a constituted Community Activity Group. They held weekly sessions with the CCB worker to develop the relevant skills and confidence. Group members insist that they want any services to be open to the non-traveller community. They had a fundraising stand at ‘Make a Difference Day’, which promotes volunteering, and also did some fundraising in the general community. Though they got some negative reactions, participants were generally surprised by the positive response.

The group organised an International Women’s’ Day event about health and wellbeing at the Campus, for the whole community.   Travellers are now joining with others for the first time, in a Family Cooking course and evening youth provision.

Next steps will include supporting the group to establish a Development Plan, promote further access to services, build an appreciation of Gypsy Traveller culture, and connect with other traveller networks.

Partnership and strategy

CLD workers established a local working group to support the project and plan activities, including CLD staff, MECOPP, Housing and Community Care staff, the Educational Additional Support Officer and the local Health Visitor. The working group now contributes to the Perth and Kinross wide working group and Gypsy Travellers Strategy. MECOPP has delivered Gypsy Travellers Awareness Raising Training for local workers.  

Evidence of impact

This is not the kind of work that is targeted at preventing or eliminating one known problem. There had been no public controversy in the area about travellers, apart from some opposition to one new site. It is basic capacity building work, which allows people to identify the issues that are limiting their potential and to come together to start to resolve them, leading on to many kinds of learning and solutions to a variety of problems.

The main beneficiaries so far have been young women aged 10 – 18 who are not engaged in education or paid employment and have missed out on formal education. For them and others participation:

  • builds confidence
  • offers positive family experiences
  • supports employability
  • overcomes social disadvantage 
  • builds links with local communities.

Feedback from travellers – June 2013

 

The difference CLD support and activities have made to my current lifestyle.

·         People are not deciding for us anymore

·         At school they always pick the same people to sing or do drama.  Here we get the choice to have opportunities and show our skills

·         You can be yourself here

·         If I didn’t come here I would miss the buzz I get from being involved

·         I didn’t know what a committee was before I came here.

·         I never thought I would ever be anything apart from a mother, now I am chairperson of the group

·         Good fun – not like learning

·         I listen to other people more now, don’t just give my own opinion

·         Enjoy making friends here

·         School but not like school

·         Thought it wouldn’t last more than a week, but still coming.  It is learning but doesn’t feel like learning

·         At school – no choice, everything is planned out, here we have a choice, we are not told what to do

·         We can speak and say what we want to say, we are not judged

 

 

It has improved access to services:

      health services, generating new confidence to approach Health Visitors; they also visit the sites, on request, to talk about child development

      family learning programmes

      a regular literacy programme

      primary and nursery school, where there have been new enrolments,

      leisure activities, with new take-up of passes

      and the Community Campus itself, which some now use weekly and call their ‘second home’.  

The links made with the travellers have led to positive working relationships.  The travellers say that there had been hostility to them in the wider community, and that they didn’t want to be identified as travellers. The project has explored these perceptions with them, the positives and negatives, and explored their culture.

It has also allowed people with no previous understanding of community groups or committees to work collectively, develop group work and leadership skills, participate in the local community, and make links with key partners and with other travellers from their own sites, other sites and national traveller networks.



[1] Asocial development programme: http://www.asdan.org.uk/

 

 

 

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