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Travelling Ahead: Policy and Law Update: December 2013

Travelling Ahead is a Wales-wide project supporting the rights and participation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and young people. This is an occaisional update on policy and law issues our partners and networks may be intersted in.

Following the highly successful Cardiff training day on Gypsy and Traveller law run by Shelter with Barrister Marc Willers back in July we have set up a new email network for those interested in law and policy issues relating to Gypsies and Travellers in Wales – please let us know here if you want your name added.

Tackling Hate Crime

National Forum Young people working together
  • The Welsh Governments Consultation on Tackling Hate Crimes and Incidents: A Framework for Action  has now closed and a new Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board Cymru has been announced which aims to ensure a co-ordinated response to dealing with hate crime across Wales. It brings together representatives from the Welsh Government, police, councils and other agencies. The board will be chaired by the Crown Prosecution Service and met for the first time on the 18th of October. 
  • To coincide with Hate Crime Awareness Week Race Equality First  launched a series of short films with people talking about hate crime – a young Gypsy Traveller is amongst those who speak about their experiences – you can watch a short promotional clip HERE. Please contact Mair Rigby, Project Officer- All Wales Hate Crime Project on mair.rigby@raceequalityfirst.org.uk

Travelling to a Better Future: Welsh Government 2013 Update

Jeff Cuthbert Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty gave an update in plenary on November 5th on progress with the Welsh Government’s overarching strategy to improve outcomes for Gypsies and Travellers in Wales – you can see their progress report here and watch the debate in the National Assembly here

Whilst Travelling Ahead was given a number of positive mentions we are keen to see some proper analysis and government seeking some feedback from Gypsies and Travellers themselves as to what impact the government strategy is actually having in Wales.

Housing (Wales) Bill Consultation

The Housing (Wales) Bill was introduced to the National Assembly on November 18 and is being considered at Stage 1 by the Communities, Equaliy and Local Government Committee.

The Bill includes proposals to place a duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers where a need is identified. Stage 1 looks at the general principles of the Bill and the need for legislation and there is a public consultation open until 17 January 2014 so please submit your responses supporting the need for this duty as soon as you are able to. More information about the consultation and the legislative process can be found here.

The Committee want to engage directly with Gypsies and Travellers to hear their views and Travveling Ahead has been approached as one of the agencies to help facilitate this happening - we already have 2 groups of young people who want to meet with officials, if you would like to take part please get in touch with Trudy or contact the Committee directly

Positive Planning: proposals to reform the plannng system in Wales

Welsh Government have launched a consultation on the Draft Planning Reform (Wales) Bill which aims to 'modernise the planning system in Wales' through changes to legislation and to policy and guidance. The consultation paper proposes the introduction of Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) to address issues of local importance such as housing land supply. SDPs will have to cover Gypsy and Traveller provision of both permanent and transit pitches and their will be implications for Gypsies and Travellers seeking planning permission to live on their own land. The consultation closes on 26 February and Travelling Ahead are planning a workshop session on the 17 January in Cardiff to look at the issues and how we can best repsond to the consultation. Please let Trudy know if you want to come along

New legisation has negative impact on Gypsies and Travellers in Wales

Isaac Blake of the Romani Cultural and Arts Association in Wales has led community concerns about the impact of two pieces of legislation which are having and likely to have a negative and differential impact on the lives and livelihoods of Gypsies and Travellers.

Two meetings with Welsh Government and with police and council officials on the Control of Horses (Wales) Bill and the Scrap Metal Act 2013 respectively have taken place in recent weeks chaired by Julie Morgan AM. The lack of consultation, equality impact assessments (at UK, Wales and local level) and lack of information and engagement with Gypsies and Travellers have been strongly criticised.

The Control of Horses (Wales) Bill has gone through a ‘fast track’ legislative process at the National Assembly omitting Stage 1 where committee would normally scrutinise the general principles of a bill -  it’s likely to receive royal assent and become law in Wales in January 2104. There is an action plan and guidance being developed for which the Minister has now committed to consultation on with Gypsies and Traveller horse owners.

The UK Scrap Metal Act 2013 which became law on the 1st December does not allow for any further consultation – at a Wales level we will be working with local authorities to encourage them to work collaboratively to make the new procedures as affordable and accessible for Gypsies and Travellers who work as scrap dealers as possible.
However in the meantime the reality is that many are finding their livelihoods are threatened and police have already used the new Act to target Gypsy and Traveller sites in south Wales.

Anyone with information or concerns please get in touch with ourselves or with Isaac Blake directly. Anyone needing advice please get in touch and we will aim to put you in touch with someone who can offer support.

A really useful guide for Gypsies and Travellers on the Scrap Metal Act which became law on the 1st December has been published by STAG group in London - you can see it here

National Assembly for Wales Cross Party group

Wales Cross Party Group

The last Cross Party Group on Gypsies and Travellers was held on 27 November; the Minister for Equalities Jeff Cuthbert attended for the first part of the meeting and heard concerns from a number of Gypsies and Travellers who had come to talk about planning issues. Planning Aid Wales were also present who were able to link in with some of those present to offer further advice and support. There were strong calls from those present to ensure that local authorities are held accountable for implementing their legal duties especially under the forthcoming Housing (Wales) Bill and for the Welsh Local Government Association and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to monitor what is happening at a local level.

The next meeting will be held on 'Issues Faced by Elderly People in the Gypsy and Traveller Community' on February 19 2014 between 12-2 in the Media Briefing Room at the National Assembly for Wales. Contact Julie Morgan's office for more info or to confirm attendance