Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

0113 240 2444

Crown Point House,
167-169 Cross Green Lane,
Leeds LS9 0BD

Best City must be strategic about inclusion

Ellie Rogers's picture
By Ellie Rogers |  June 1, 2015 |

Inclusion strategyWe have all heard the growing rhetoric about the deserving and the undeserving poor, we see this reflected most strikingly in the media, programmes like Benefits Street.

In this climate I think it is increasingly important that we are clear, at a strategic level, about what we are committed to in our city and what we understand by inequality.

We have amazing vision in this city, we want to be the best city and we want to be the best city for everyone. We want children and young people to feel a part of this and we use the banner of Child Friendly Leeds to promote their inclusion in every part of civic life and wellbeing. We have an ambitious health and wellbeing strategy that boldly states we will improve the health of the poorest the fastest and we will look to reduce the disparity in life expectancies between different communities. I love all this, it’s brave and it’s creative – one of GATE’s values.

However too often these initiatives don’t reach our members. Why? Because Gypsy and Traveller people have been and continue to be marginalised in our society, maligned in the media, living quite literally on the edge of our communities and experiencing the last bastion of acceptable racism. They are the undeserving poor or maybe more accurately the unquantified poor – with few people aware of the challenges families face, the burdens certain policy decisions place on communities and with little data (still not included in the NHS data dictionary) to highlight what is actually happening to people in healthcare systems.

But we do know that Gypsy and Traveller people have a life expectancy at least 10 years below the national average, indeed research here in Leeds indicated that life expectancy may be up to 28 years less!  Gypsy and Traveller mothers are 20 times more likely to experience the death of a child and 9 out of 10 children report racially motivated bullying.

I think that there is an important process to go through for us to get strategy right and that means a deepening and a broadening of our understanding of terms such as inequality (or homelessness or complex needs). And that process is one of interrogating terms – what does it mean to experience inequality today, what does that mean for a white working class person, what does that mean for someone from a BME community, what does that mean for a Sex Worker, what does that mean for a vulnerable migrant, what does that mean for LGB&T people?

And when we’ve thought that through and we’ve listened and we’ve heard those voices, then we need to name it. When we say we want the poorest to improve their health the fastest we need to not leave to the imagination who those poorest are but to say we acknowledge there is a crisis in health care for Gypsies and Travellers, for Sex Workers, for Homeless People and for Vulnerable Migrants. We need to say we’re proud to speak 170 languages as a city and we give some serious consideration as to how we meet the needs of such a wealth of diversity within our city.

Strategy is at its best when it is brave and creative and the language it uses guides the work in our city though laying down a baseline of what needs to be talked about. By naming things in a document that will be read by every professional in the city we make it everyone’s business.

If we’re serious about inclusion, then we should name the inclusion of Gypsy and Traveller people and we should believe in their ability to be included. And we must stand in solidarity with everyone else experiencing similar marginalisation in asking to be named as included in our city.

Previous article: "Keeping the Human Rights Act – We are all in this together"

Next article: "New faces, new opportunities"