Disabled people from Gypsy Roma and Traveller backgrounds need better services, study warns

6 November 2020

Disabled people from the Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) community need statutory and voluntary sector organisations to do more to ensure their needs are met, a new groundbreaking study launched this week says.

The report, ‘Including the Missing Voices of Disabled People in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Community’ concludes that disabled people from the community are put off from accessing health and social care services because of past experience of discrimination in mainstream society, putting pressure on family members and other community members to plug the gap.

Surveys, interviews and focus group research of over 150 people from GRT communities highlighted delays in accessing aids and adaptations, as well as health and social care services, with respondents saying providers were often reluctant to visit GRT sites.

Participants generally agreed that everyday living was more arduous if living on a GRT site, especially for disabled people and their carers.

The research highlights the stigma of disability in GRT communities, particularly in regard to men and mental health. It also highlights the potential role of disabled people’s organisations in supporting disabled people from GRT communities to have a louder voice in policy development on disability issues.

Peter Unwin, principal lecturer of social work at the University of Worcester and co-author of the report said:

“There’s an estimated 300,000 people from Gypsy Roma Traveller communities living in the UK. Disabled members of those communities can face double discrimination because of both their family background and their impairment or long term health conditions.”

The report’s recommendations include more investment for ‘community connectors’, who help support and link GRT communities to wider society, to increase their knowledge of disability issues and improve their links with disabled people’s organisations; and increased outreach by disabled people’s organisations to ensure people from GRT communities are involved in service and policy development.

The project was led by the University of Worcester and the disabled people’s organisation Shaping Our Lives. It was supported by a grant from the £5 million DRILL programme (Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning) – the first user-led disability research programme in the world. DRILL is fully funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Becki Meakin from Shaping Our Lives said:

“This research provides a breakthrough in terms of directly hearing from disabled people and their living in GRT communities. It’s important we build on this work so they continue to have a voice on the issues that affect them.”

Jason Smith, who is deaf, said:

“There is a stigma around speaking out about disability. We’re a marginalised group within an already marginalised group. This can make it hard to get information or access to the support and things that can help.”


Jason smith

Kamran Mallick from Disability Rights UK, which manages DRILL in England added:

“The research highlights the extent of discrimination disabled people from GRT communities face. Organisations need to do more to ensure that disabled travellers have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. DR UK is following up the research with traveller organisations to ensure that the voice of disabled travellers is heard by both DPOs and those in power whose decisions impact their lives.”

Download a copy of ‘Including the Missing Voices of Disabled People in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Community’ HERE.

This study was funded by the National Lottery as part of the Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning (DRILL) programme for Disabled people

To ensure that the findings were as accessible as possible RosaCenSis Film Production Company and Travellers' Times were commissioned to produce a series of short films to highlight some of the most significant challenges facing Disabled Gypsy, Roma and Traveller individuals and their families.