Gypsy, Roma and traveller children speak out over racism

The Children’s Society called today for increased efforts to combat prejudice against gypsy, Roma and traveller groups.

A report from the children’s society outlines the abuse and disadvantage faced by young people from these communities.

It asked 201 children and young people in London about public attitudes towards them and their families. Of those questioned, 86% had been racially abused and 63% had been bullied or physically attacked.

Respondents also asked why their racist persecutors were not punished and why newspapers were not prosecuted for printing anti-gypsy stories. They felt that there were “marked differences in responses to prejudice against them compared to the racism aimed at other minority groups”.

Half of those questioned had attended school at some point, but the average age of those who dropped out was just 11-and-a-half-years-old. Reasons given for leaving school included bullying, other children’s atttiudes, failure to act against prejudice by authorities and an irrelevant curriculum.

Penny Nicholls, strategy director for the Children’s Society, said: “The report highlights worrying levels of prejudice and discrimination, which have a corrosive effect on these young people’s self-esteem and confidence. We hope this research will generate debate and encourage better understanding of gypsy, Roma and traveller communities, who are rightly proud of their culture and traditions.”

The Children’s Society also recommended that youth offending teams should receive cultural sensitivity training to work better with children and young people from those communities. It was found that 36% of those surveyed had been in trouble with the law, which the charity called “a high number from such a small sample”. Roma children were found to be more vulnerable than those who identified themselves as gypsies or travellers.

A Youth Justice Board spokesperson said: “The YJB is committed to promoting equal opportunities, and eradicating discrimination. We would expect local authorities to ensure that all staff are made aware of their responsibilities to this group under the Race Relations Act 1976.”

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