Government must publish coronavirus guidance for Gypsies and Travellers say charities

24 March 2020

"Whilst we welcome the measures the Government has put in place to date by banning evictions and offering additional protection for renters, there is no clear information on if or how this applies to people living on an unauthorised encampment, on a Traveller site or on a boat."

Campaigners and charities have written to the government demanding that it publish specific coronavirus guidance for Gypsies and Travellers and call a halt to all evictions of unauthorised Traveller camps.

The letter, sent today and signed by 30 organisations, also raises concerns about the lack of help for self employed Gypsies and Travellers no longer able to work during the coronavirus lockdown that came into force yesterday.

In the letter, the charities say that around 10,000 Gypsy and Traveller people are living roadside on unauthorised encampments at this time, around 70,000 people are living on Gypsy or Traveller sites and around 15,000 people are living on canals and waterways - and that the government needs to provide guidance for household from these communities and guidance and rules for local authorities to follow when engaging with them.

"Gypsy and Traveller communities are known to face some of the most severe health inequalities and poor life outcomes amongst the UK population, with higher rates of long‐term illness, health problems or disabilities, higher overall prevalence of reported chest pain and higher levels of respiratory problems," say the charities.

"This means that within Gypsy and Traveller communities, there is a disproportionately high representation of people at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus."

"Despite this, the guidance released by Public Health England on self-isolation has no information on how to self-isolate on an unauthorised encampment, on a Traveller site or on a boat, nor advises if this is possible, given the confined living space which goes hand in hand with nomadic living. Whilst signatories of the letter have been working with PHE on developing such guidance, the process has been slow, so nothing has yet been published."

To read the letter in full click on the download below:

Last night the Canal and River Trust published a statement reassuring worried itinerant livaboard Boaters and telling them that they no longer have to follow the rules on constant movement and can, instead, shelter in place on the towpath during the lock down. Its staff, say the Trust, will concentrate on keeping water and waste disposal services open and supporting vulnerable boaters who are isolating.

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