Tories Called Out For Overlooking Group Most Vulnerable To Homelessness

A new report comes a day after the Welsh secretary issued a controversial leaflet about Traveller and Gypsy communities.
Rough sleepers lay in their makeshift beds outside closed shops on Oxford Street, at daybreak in London on August 2, 2023.
Rough sleepers lay in their makeshift beds outside closed shops on Oxford Street, at daybreak in London on August 2, 2023.
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

The Conservatives are facing more criticism after a new report has found Roma communities in the UK are particularly vulnerable to homelessness.

The report, ‘Exploring the phenomenon of Roma homelessness in the UK’ was published by the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research.

Roma communities face a greater risk of living in overcrowded, substandard housing.

The researchers spoke to people in Luton and Glasgow – where there are high Roma populations – and found poor living conditions also worsened stress and anxiety, particularly for younger generations.

It found this then had a knock-on effect for students in school, who had lower attainment.

The report also suggested the poor housing also contributes to health and physical injury, with some areas lacking electricity or water – and instead are inundated with mould, rats or bed bugs.

Chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, Matt Downie, commented that the report was “harrowing” but “not surprising”.

“Every day we see in our services that minoritised ethnic communities are experiencing higher rates of homelessness,” Downie told The Independent.

He called for national and local government to “take notice” of this report, and for a “culturally sensitive solution to end homelessness for good”.

It’s worth noting the government does already recognise Roma communities “experience social exclusion and barriers in access to health and care services”.

The government website identifies Roma people for “protection under the Equality Act”, too.

In response to the report, a government spokesperson told The Independent: “No-one in our society should have to suffer the injustice of living in overcrowded or substandard housing, and councils have a responsibility to ensure families or vulnerable people are not left without a roof over their head.”

They said the government is investing £1 billion into the Homelessness Prevention Grant over the next three years, which can be used by councils.

“We expect councils to commission services based on the needs of their communities. This ensures the needs of all people, regardless of background, ethnicity or religion, are met,” the spokesperson added.

The report comes the day after the Welsh secretary David Davies came under fire for distributing a leaflet which questioned if his constituents want to see a traveller site set up next to their homes.

The leaflet is now being considered by Gwent police, following criticism from the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT).

Mary Foy told The Guardian: “It couldn’t be clearer that ministers are aiding and abetting anti-GRT racism.”

Davies said in a statement that the location of both authorised and unauthorised traveller sites “is a legitimate matter for public debate and scrutiny”, claiming his criticism was “entirely valid”.

He added: “I have also been told that many from the Gypsy and traveller community are also upset at the proposed locations for the sites. This is not a criticism of the Gypsy and traveller community.”

Homelessness in general has becoming an increasingly pressing issue for the government amid the cost of living crisis.

Only last week, official stats from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities found there are a record number of people at risk of being homeless – including 131,370 children.

Photos of the growing homeless population are also popping up on social media.

Inflation is still at 7.9%, while interest rates were just hiked to 5.25%, which can make getting basic necessities a struggle for those in lower-income households.

Meanwhile, the government’s Renters Reform Bill, which bans no fault evictions, is yet to pass into law – despite being proposed in April 2019.


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