News In Focus
MSPs "appalled" at Gypsy/Traveller services
24 September 2012
A committee of MSPs is "appalled and horrified" at the discrimination suffered by the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland as it attempts to access health and social care services.
In a report published today, the Equal Opportunities Committee says it is "frustrated" by the fact that, despite various reports and initiatives since devolution, "very little has been achieved to improve the lives of Gypsy/Travellers. In fact, Gypsy/Travellers still face many of the same problems that have troubled them for decades".
The report, Gypsy/Travellers and Care, highlights as extremely concerning an average male life expectancy of 55 years, poor quality encampments located beside landfill sites and under electricity pylons, GP surgeries refusing to see patients, and unimplemented Government recommendations and short-term initiatives.
Committee convener Mary Fee MSP said: “If we were to substitute any other ethnic minority instead of Gypsy/Travellers in our report, there would be uproar at the obvious racial discrimination. Yet, our report shows that despite initiatives in the last 15 years by successive Governments, very little real change has actually been achieved to improve the lives of Gypsy/Travellers.
“Access to health and social care alongside other public services must be universal. We look to the Scottish Government now to take the lead in making real, significant changes to the lives of Gypsy/Travellers, with speed and commitment.”
The MSPs commend the work carried out by some individual health care practitioners and voluntary services in developing health awareness initiatives among Gypsy/Travellers and recommend that the Scottish Government and the NHS consider how such initiatives can be repeated and maintained.
The committee’s report recommendations also highlighted further issues including:
- extensive delays in waiting times for aids and adaptations for elderly and/or disabled individuals living in caravans and chalets;
- consideration of alternative options for care support, including drop-in surgeries and/or a network for GPs to share information on patients who may move from one local authority to another;
- the need for strong leadership at management level in public sector services to ensure that policies on GP registration and treatment take into account cultural sensitivities and do not indirectly discriminate, for example by requiring a fixed address.
A second inquiry by the Equal Opportunities Committee, titled "Where Gypsy/Travellers Live", is expected to report in early 2013.