Police and councils must check welfare before using new eviction powers - say GRT social workers

9 August 2022

The Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work Association (GRTSWA) say that police and councils must pursue health and welfare checks before using the new anti-Traveller law of eviction or arrest on Gypsy and Traveller families stopping roadside and on public land - because it is the right thing to do and if they fail to check for welfare needs they could be vulnerable to future legal action. Downloads of the GRTSWA Good Practice Guide to Welfare Checks and templates are available in this article.

“On 21st July we launched our good practice guide on ‘UNDERSTANDING THE WELFARE IMPACT OF THE POLICE, CRIME, SENTENCING AND COURTS ACT 2022’ which is accompanied by part A and B welfare enquiry forms These have been developed in partnership with the Dr Dan Allen at Manchester Metropolitan University, the Gypsy Roma and Traveller Social Work Association and the British Association of Social Workers... Writes the GRTSWA

We are also grateful to the following colleagues: Trudy Aspinwall from Travelling Ahead - an all-Wales advocacy project which supports Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. Marc Willers QC, from Garden Court Chambers and to Chris Johnson from the Community Law Partnership, who took the time to review our guidance and whose feedback and endorsements have been invaluable.

Why did we develop this guidance and who is it for?

We are all too aware that the Police Act, which so many of us campaigned vigorously against, is now law and in the three weeks that the Act has been implemented we’ve already seen enforcement action taking place and enforcement action which appears to have included a disproportionate response by the police, this is what we most feared happening.

In our written evidence on the impact of the Police Bill – as it was then - to Westminster and Welsh Governments, the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work Association raised our real concerns that enforcement action, could result in more Gypsy and Traveller children being referred to child welfare services and becoming looked after by the state. We already know, from Dr Dan Allen’s research1 - published earlier this year in the British Journal of Social Work - that Gypsy/Traveller and Roma children are disproportionately referred into child welfare services and are over-represented in state care.

As members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work Association, who are ethnic Gypsies and Travellers, this law is aimed at eradicating who we are, it is social engineering of the most grotesque form, designed for our ethnic cleansing and we did not form as an association to be passive in the face of this state brutality and assault on our human rights.

Our effort must now be turned to mitigating the impact of the Police Act on nomadic families, whether they are nomadic because of ethnicity or culture or for employment purposes and who’s encampment meets the conditions for initiating the new police powers under the Act.

Although police guidance on managing unauthorised encampments has been published, we believe that the inherent values and ethics in our good practice guidance, which absolutely gold plates human rights and equality act legislation and is anti-racist, strengths based and family focused, will be viewed by those police forces who choose to adopt a welfare and not enforcement approach, as an opportunity for them to take on this learning and further enhance their practice.

This Good Practice Guidance and welfare enquiry forms are aimed at local authorities and any other organisations who will be tasked with undertaking welfare assessments on unauthorised encampments, some of whom, will be social workers. Of course, it can be applied in any eviction situation, whether initiated by the Police Act, or other legislation.

The Good Practice Guide provides a brief introduction to the types of conversations that can lead to a reliable and verifiable understanding of welfare considerations that result from police action. This information may then be used to support a legal challenge or appeal against the Police Act, on the grounds that the act of eviction, is incompatible with the Human Rights Act in England and Wales.

We will be piloting the guidance in England and Wales and our best hope is that it will become the standard one used in both nations.

If you would like is to come and speak with your local authority or service about using the Good Practice Guidance, please contact us at Cymru@basw.co.uk


Friends, Families and Travellers advice for Gypsies and Travellers stopping roadside

There is a significant national shortage of places for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers to legally and safely stop. However, on 28 June 2022, the Police Act 2022 came into force, which means people who live on roadside camps may now face time in prison, a £2500 fine or their home being taken from them.

This law is wide open to interpretation and it is likely to impact upon everyone who is or wishes to live nomadically - by culture, choice or necessity.

As the law is rolled out, it's vital that anyone currently living or planning to live nomadically is prepared. Take a look at the Friends, Families and Travellers advice booklet download below for what you can do to protect yourself:

Mike Doherty/TT NEWS

(Lead photograph (c) Johanna Price)