Reports highlight failings within criminal justice system and health

Reports highlight failings within criminal justice system and health and social work sectors
for members of the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) communities and recommend
policy changes at the European and UK level
- GTR significantly under-represented as victims (particularly when reporting hate crimes)
but significantly over-represented as offenders within the criminal justice system;
Inequity in morbidity and mortality rates when Roma and non-Roma are compared, most
starkly in relation to life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality rates;
Call for training of professionals to ensure the GTR communities are treated with the
same awareness and sensitivity as other minority and majority communities;
Need to overcome barriers of language, communication, understanding of service
provision and trust to enable access to services by Roma;
Effective data monitoring required to identify and track progress in meeting EU-wide
targets on reducing inequalities.
The failings within the criminal justice system and health and social work sectors for
members of the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) communities - along with policy
recommendations to tackle the issues raised - are highlighted in reports published today
(21 April). The reports outline the findings of seminars attended by leading European
academics, UK civil servants and expert practitioners working within the criminal justice
system, health care and social work sectors. The ‘Bridging the Gap between Academics
and Policy Makers’ sessions were funded by the European Academic Network on Romani
Studies, the Council of Europe and Buckinghamshire New University.
The seminars were convened by Professor Margaret Greenfields, Director of the Institute
of Diversity Research, Inclusivity, Communities and Society at Buckinghamshire New
University who led a coalition of academic partners including colleagues from the
Universities of Warwick, Bristol, Plymouth, Hull and Greenwich. Professor Greenfields
‘Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are particularly vulnerable ethnic minority groups who have
been marginalised, discriminated against and excluded for centuries. In recognition of this
fact, there are duties placed upon EU member states to reduce inequalities. Despite this,
change has been slow and discrimination and inequalities occur across multiple domains
both in the UK and in wider Europe, impacting on human rights and life chances. Systemic
change is urgently required to address the issues of social exclusion, oppression and
discrimination. The ‘Bridging the Gap’ seminars, convened and supported by a partnership
of academic and civil society organisations, have identified best practice, policy
recommendations and the need to build bridges across policy areas.
For example, simple and cost-effective solutions would consist of ethnic monitoring in line
with other groups, to map equality of treatment, processes and outcomes. Access to
adequate numbers of high quality ‘sites’ for nomadic Travellers would reduce
inter-community conflict, fiscal cost and human suffering while simultaneously improving
access to education and health care for members of the communities. Cultural
competence training delivered to health and social care staff, the use of ‘mediators’ and
competent Romanes speaking translators would also minimise the risk of
misunderstanding and reduce costs to the public purse associated with avoidable health
deterioration or unnecessary interventions. Evidence-based policy is key to bringing about
equality and a fairer society for Roma and other marginalised groups which inevitably
benefits all those resident in the UK.’
The ‘Crime and Punishment: Gypsies, Travellers and Roma in the criminal justice system’
report was co-authored by Margaret Greenfields, Zoë James (Department of Criminology,
University of Plymouth) and Jenni Berlin (Buckinghamshire New University/University of
Eastern Finland). The key findings were:
- Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are significantly under-represented as victims in criminal
justice processes despite evidence of significant levels of victimisation through
hate-crimes. However, they are significantly over-represented as offenders in criminal
justice systems throughout Europe.
- There is a subsequent mistrust of criminal justice processes and personnel, particularly
the police, amongst GTR communities and a lack of willingness amongst those
communities to therefore engage with them to report crimes of victimisation.
The policy recommendations include training for police personnel to ensure they treat GTR
with the same awareness and sensitivity as when policing other minority and majority
communities; publicising the work of role models from GTR communities working in
criminal justice services (such as Roma police officer Petr Torak, a delegate at the
seminar, who was awarded an MBE last week); and tailored health provision and
educational programmes for GTR to tackle the prevalence of untreated health conditions,
substance issues and poor literacy amongst this group. The report also calls for more
outreach activities to encourage applications to criminal justice services by members of the
GTR communities and praises the good practice model of organisations such as Thames
Valley Police which offers bursaries to support preliminary training requirements for GTR
Zoë James, Associate Professor in Criminology at Plymouth Law School, Plymouth
University said:
‘Equality of access to and treatment by the justice process are essential to effective,
functioning societies. The exclusion of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma from support as
victims, while they are disproportionately targeted as potential offenders, has an impact
beyond their immediate environments and on the society at large that becomes
increasingly conflictual rather than consensual. By drawing together expert testimony from
academics, policy makers, Gypsy, Traveller and Roma practitioners and civil society
organisations, this report identifies an excellent way forward to challenge poor practice
and build a more effective and just process of addressing crime and victimisation in
Europe and the UK.’
The ‘Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Health and Social Work Engagement’ report was
co-authored by Margaret Greenfields, Sarah Cemlyn (University of Bristol) and Jenni
Berlin. The report highlights that recent EU studies show inequity in morbidity and mortality
when Roma and non-Roma are compared, most starkly in relation to life expectancy
including maternal, infant and child mortality.
The policy recommendations for health care include a call for the UK to adopt a GTR
health strategy; an urgent call for the Department of Health to ensure that GTR
communities are included in ethnic monitoring categories to ensure appropriate monitoring
of health conditions, pathways and outcomes; for the EU to work with member states to
recommend best practice to record and monitor the health status of Roma populations;
and cultural competence training to help health professionals engage with GTR
communities by understanding gender practices and language barriers.
In the social work sector, the report calls for increased monitoring across all EU states to
establish a clearer picture of the numbers of GTR children in the public care system (who
are believed to be significantly over-represented); training for social workers to provide a
sufficient grounding in cultural understanding to ensure appropriate support and
assessment for families; the need to address the cultural trauma and discrimination
experienced by children when removed from their homes, communities and culture; and a
need to increase the development of fostering with GTR communities so that children who
need to be safeguarded by entering the care system have access to culturally relevant
accommodation. It is important that cultural continuity must be a centralised feature of any
care planning process.
Sarah Cemlyn, a Research Fellow at Bristol University, said: ‘Despite many years of
equality duties within health and social work services and some localised good practice,
Gypsies, Travellers and Roma continue to experience severe inequalities in health and
mortality, reflecting wider social exclusion and discrimination. Children often experience
the worst effects of exclusion but those who do need care must have their wellbeing
maintained by being able to develop a secure identity through continuing contact with their
communities and culture. By drawing together a wide range of expertise and experience,
this seminar shone a clear light on the development of collaborative solutions.’
Professor Greenfields will tomorrow (22 April) address the ‘Policies for Roma inclusion:
The contribution of academic research’ event at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. This
is the closing event for the funding stream which has supported the Bridging the Gap
expert seminars. Professor Greenfields will outline her assertion that a symbiotic
relationship exists between research, ethical policy making and Roma empowerment.
PDF links to the executive summaries of the reports are available:
-endsFor further information, contact:
Louise Harvey, PR Manager
Buckinghamshire New University
Tel: 07920 212926