Today, the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups launched a report which provides an overview of how councils in England have responded to roadside camps during the Covid-19 pandemic. The research was commissioned by Moving for Change, as part of the organisation’s National Lottery funded project Roadside Futures.
As part of the project, Adrian Jones of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups contacted every local authority in England, apart from the Isles of Scilly, to get a clearer picture of the number of families living on roadside camps during the first ‘lockdown’ period, and the facilities being provided to meet their needs.
The report outlines a series of good practice responses reported by councils across England, many of whom adopted Negotiated Stopping or tolerated stopping approaches to roadside camps during the first national lockdown. A number of local authorities reported a halt on evictions during this period and reported provision of water, sanitation and refuse facilities, in light of the significant challenges for those living roadside during the pandemic.
However, data also reveals an alarming rise in evictions in some local authority areas, with some cases showing multiple evictions within a single local authority area.
Despite Government messaging calling for “no unnecessary travel”, a “complete ban on evictions” and staying at home for everyone living in England, evidence shows that in the 45 days following the change of messaging to “Stay Alert” (10th May) evictions of roadside camps increased by a staggering 333%.
As the UK is now in the midst of its third lockdown, the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups calls for more councils to use a Negotiated Stopping approach instead of evictions, to prevent those on roadside camps from being forced from local authority to local authority and potentially putting themselves and others at risk during the pandemic.
Commenting on the report, Violet Cannon, Chair of Moving for Change and Director of York Travellers Trust said:
“Nomadism has existed in England for centuries, but by and large, the Government have failed to accommodate this. A great deal of money and effort has been spent on telling us where we can’t go, but rarely addressing where we can go. This approach hasn’t worked. Today’s report shows that health-first approaches to roadside camps do work. We hope that as we rebuild and recover from the pandemic, councils will begin to respond in more humane and fair ways to people living on roadside camps. Another way is possible.”
Speaking about the report, Adrian Jones, Policy Officer at the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups said:
“While the number of local authorities adopting an approach of meeting a need rather than dealing with a “problem” is really encouraging, the number of evictions taking place in the midst of a pandemic remains a major concern. Hopefully, when we move out of the pandemic, local authorities will be able to build on the good practice that has been shown and we will see a growth in the use of Negotiated Stopping.”
Notes for Editor
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‘Local authority approaches to roadside camps in a time of Covid-19’. National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups. January 2021. View here.