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
I recently had the pleasure of reading Katharine Quarmby’s excellent book No place to call home. At risk of sounding like empty promotion, suffice to say that this is a well informed and thought provoking piece. Crucially though, it reinforces some important points about the Gypsy and Traveller community and their struggle for safe, secure and appropriate accommodation. These lessons are worth noting whilst GATE and others continue to work towards this goal.
The Dale Farm and Meriden site cases studied in Quarmby’s book show the obstacles in the planning system, commonplace local hostility and negative media reporting. These are challenges which we similarly have and will continue to see in Leeds and beyond. One interesting question raised is could these obstacles have been better overcome? It is clear that there were, and remain, diverging opinions from those within the community and supporting groups as to how best approach seeking planning consent or to challenge refusals and subsequent threats of eviction.