Health crisis identified among gypsies in Leeds

Gypsies and travellers in Leeds die nearly 30 years before the
rest of the city’s population in conditions
“reminiscent of a developing

New Asset  

country,” according to a report published today,
writes Maria Ahmed.

The study of gypsies and travellers by Leeds Racial Equality
Council found a “health crisis” in the communities.

The life expectancy for gypsies and travellers was around 50
years, compared with an average in Leeds of 78 years. Less than two
per cent of this group were aged over 60.

The report said: “While it is accepted that living on
unauthorised sites can exacerbate health problems….regardless
of accommodation type, poor health is a feature of the daily life
of these communities.”

Services for the communities were found to be “grossly
inadequate,” such as the provision of a part-time social
worker for more than a thousand disadvantaged people.

While the report noted improvement in service delivery over the
past two years, it said health and social care problems remained
“unacceptably high”.

The report recommended that primary care trusts, social services
and the local authority should form small task forces jointly with
community members to implement “culturally sensitive”
health and social care policies.

A 2004 census of gypsy and traveller communities in Leeds
identified 1,071 people.

Out of these, 58 per cent lived in private or social housing,
while 42 families lived on the roadside on unauthorised sites and
were subjected to continual evictions.

The report described conditions for the families living on the
roadside as “intolerable,” and usually without water,
sanitation facilities or rubbish disposal.

It also found that the biggest barrier to site provision was
resistance from the settled community.

The report said: “Fed by centuries of myth and prejudice
updated by contemporary negative media images and language it is
possible to understand, but not accept, the poor perception most of
the settled community has of gypsies and travellers.”

The report also found that Leeds gypsies and travellers lacked a
community centre.

It said: “From village halls to discrete centres, majority
and minority communities have a space which is theirs. Gypsies and
travellers do not.”

The report called for the “combined efforts” of all
the political parties to lead public opinion and for the media to
present balanced reports.

• There are an estimated 300,000 gypsies and travellers in
the UK, more than the Bangladeshi population (280,830) or the
Chinese (226,948)

• Gypsies and travellers (other than New Age or travelling
Showpeople) were only recognised as an ethnic group (as defined by
the Race Relations Act 1976) in 1989

• Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial
Equality, has said gypsies and travellers are the targets of
“the last respectable racism in Britain”.

For a copy of the report call: 0113 275 8735

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