One issue that consistently frustrates GATE and our members is lack of progress with developing private sites for Gypsies and Travellers to address unmet need. Like everyone, Gypsies and Travellers have differing housing needs. As with any community some people have the means and the will to buy, or build, for themselves; while others need to live in rented housing, or in this case rented pitch accommodation. A ‘Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Need Assessment’ (or GTANA) has recently been conducted in the Leeds area. The research was conducted jointly by the City Council and Leeds GATE (See Section 225 of the Housing Act 2004 and guidance from the Department of Communities and Local Government).
Within the housing market we expect to find a range of options to suit our circumstances, including property to buy, self build, private and social renting options. Yet the options faced by Gypsies and Travellers in Leeds, and indeed many places across the country, is to apply for a pitch on the only Local Authority owned site, or to risk loss of identity, isolation and ill health – all the well documented consequences of a forced move into bricks and mortar housing, or to live the precarious life of the ‘unauthorised’ roadside families. The option to purchase a privately owned site; or more likely (given that such sites very, very rarely come up for sale), to develop your own, appears to be unrealistic.
Our Leeds readers will remember a few horrendous years when camps were popping up on playing fields and cricket pitches, spoiling planned events such as gala’s and rugby tournaments. The City Council is to be applauded for turning around an untenable situation inherited from the previous administration. Leeds has become a beacon of good practice for managing unauthorised encampments which is now being emulated around the country from Kent to Cumbria. The ‘negotiated stopping’ programme has saved at least £100,000 and considerably reduced nuisance and anti-social behaviour associated with Gypsy and Traveller camps. We all acknowledge that things are still not perfect and there is work still to do. But there is a problem and the looming election will potentially make it worse. Read more
Contrary to the children’s rhyme, words as well as sticks and stones, do have the power to cause hurt. We all know this, we have all in the throes of argument deliberately and spitefully used words to hurt, and most of us have regretted our malicious outbursts shortly afterward. Often in the form of a contrite apology once the dust has settled, and a genuine wish not to let our darker selves rise to the surface again.
Some people’s spite and malice however is not recanted or held in check. In fact it would seem to be a matter of professional pride (to some) that any opportunity to berate, belittle, demean, disparage, liable and provoke the Gypsy and Traveller communities is to be grasped with both hands and at every opportunity. Read more
It is with great anxiety that many of us will read about proposals to further reform the rules for Employment and Support allowance (ESA), what used to be capacity benefit. Already this support, with the questionnaires and medical assessments, has for many become a byword for lacking humanity and making unreasonable demands. For a number of our members, who are either themselves claiming ESA or related to someone who is, they will likely be sceptical that the proposed changes will do anything but make their already challenging situations more difficult.
Of course, we must be fair and not immediately dismiss the changes as nothing more than a thoughtless hardening of the system. We also must not be naïve to the reality that toughening up on Incapacity related benefits is widely popular and perhaps necessary in some circumstances. It is more useful to provide some constructive points about what would actually improve things for both the Government and the claimant. Read more