FFT raise concerns about accommodation assessment forms in the face of government changes

20 July 2016

Friends Families and Travellers raise concerns about accommodation assessment forms in the face of government changes to the planning definition of Gypsies and Travellers

A leading Gypsy and Traveller charity has produced a leaflet designed to help people navigate the new Traveller site accommodation assessment forms produced by some councils amid concerns about questions on “travelling.”

The leaflet is available from Friends Families and Travellers, or can be downloaded by following this link.  The leaflet has also been uploaded onto The Travellers’ Times resource section.

FFT are advising Gypsies and Travellers to fill in the forms – but to be very careful and heed the advice of the leaflet when answering any questions about their ‘travelling’ habits.

“Councils are currently carrying out new Accommodation Needs Assessments,” says FFT.

“The assessments are being done to work out if there is a need for more Gypsy/Traveller sites in your area and it is really important that you take part in the process so that your Council identifies the true level of need for sites in your area.”

“How you answer the assessment questions is really important as it will affect the number of pitches required in an area.”

“Questions about travelling are particularly important. In 2015 the Government changed the planning definition of what it means to be a ‘Gypsy or Traveller’ and it now reads as follows:

Persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or  health needs or old age have ceased to travel  temporarily, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such.

“This means that if you have completely stopped travelling, even if it is as a result of ill-health or old age or because you care for people who are too old or too ill to travel then you will be unlikely to meet the planning definition and any need you or your dependants have for a caravan site will no longer be included in the Council’s assessment of its need for Gypsy/Traveller sites in your area.”

FFT urge all Gypsies and Travellers being given accommodation assessment forms to read their leaflet and seek advice if they are unsure about what to put.

“We have already seen some examples of questionnaires being used by consultants to assess needs and have some concerns about the way in which the questions have been worded and the limited space on forms to give answers,” says FFT.

The advice leaflet, entitled “We need more pitches!”, offers clear advice to Gypsies and Travellers.

Meanwhile, Community Law Partnership are moving nearer to a legal challenge to the new law – introduced last summer – that redefines Gypsies and Travellers for planning purposes that is at the root of FFT’s concerns around councils asking questions about ‘travelling’ .  Full story on The Travellers’ Times next week.