Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Leeds GATE Blog

Crisis in Commissioning, or, “Why are you throwing our money down the toilet?”

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  January 26, 2017 |

Lloyds Bank Foundation recently published an important national report on the impact of so called ‘commissioning’ on small and medium sized civil society organisations.  I can’t say I read the report with any great surprise because it confirmed what experience tells us here at Leeds GATE.  Commissioning is a mess.  Not only is it a mess but it is actually threatening the survival of many of the small local organisations who provide help when vulnerable and struggling people need it most.  Available funding is being scooped away from local providers and into the coffers of the largest charities and those with large enough budgets to have staff dedicated to tendering for contracts.

We fed into the LBF research with a case study of how local public health had commissioned for cancer awareness raising among key vulnerable groups.  Our members were named as target groups for the work.  Public Health had funded our organisation to develop local relationships with our members, developing effective techniques for engagement, and learning directly about what works in sharing health messages, via ongoing contracts for over a decade. We are a PQASSO accredited organisation with a track record of submitting accurate financial information and regular detailed contract reports to the authority. We have no wish to be a gate-keeper, or to ‘do all the work ourselves’.  But you might think that these existing relationships would be exactly what a commissioner would be looking for in seeking an effective way to use a small amount of money?

Honestly, although it took days of work to complete the tender documents, we pretty much thought it must surely have our name on it.  Of course the commissioners would recognise that such sensitive work which highly vulnerable communities would be best done on the basis of existing relationships of trust and personal awareness that they themselves had been supporting for years?

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Leeds GATE CEO thinks we need to talk about 'antigypsyism'

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  December 2, 2016 |

Promotion and use of the term ‘antigypsyism’ is potentially as contentious as it is helpful. For example in some places in Europe the word gypsy is a stigmatised word.  In the UK and Spain the word, which we capitalise as a name, Gypsy, is not regarded of itself as a stigma. Whatever we think about it, the Alliance against Antigypsyism, who are promoting the term, are likely to have influence in Europe at least, if possibly less so in the UK. Whether we remain in the European Union or not however, this line of thinking is likely to affect UK Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers, Scottish Gypsy Travellers and Roma. We need to talk about it.

Next article: "Time for Blue-skies thinking - camping in Shangri-la"

Time for Blue-skies thinking - camping in Shangri-la

Ben Chastney's picture
By Ben Chastney |  November 29, 2016 |

Since we held a national conference about unauthorised encampments earlier this year, there has been some evidence of local good practice but this is still quite rare.  Tired approaches and obstacles to change continue in many places.  However, last Friday Leeds GATE held a very positive national advisory group discussion to launch our Esmee Fairbairn funded Negotiating Stopping project which aims to change the narrative and response to unauthorised encampments.  Our aim was to bring a new group of ‘stake-holders’ – those involved in or affected by encampment- together to try and push things forward.

Next article: "Universal Credit – Yes, it’s still happening"

Universal Credit – Yes, it’s still happening

Ben Chastney's picture
By Ben Chastney |  November 23, 2016 |

It seems like years ago we were awaiting the imminent introduction of Universal Credit and stressing concerns about what that might all mean for Gypsies and Travellers. Turns out it was years ago. Due to delay after delay, some areas, like Leeds, are only recently finally seeing this rolled out. Even now it is only for ‘simple claims’ so many families still won’t be affected for a long time. Evidence is piling up of ongoing problems and decisions are still being made about how Universal Credit will finally look so we need to keep talking about it.

Next article: "Our new conversation about Gypsy and Traveller encampments is picking up speed!"

Our new conversation about Gypsy and Traveller encampments is picking up speed!

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  November 20, 2016 |

A review of newspaper headlines over several decades indicates strong public interest in Gypsy and Traveller encampments, but very little variation, if any, in the public narratives on the issue.  Every single year for decades there has been at least one parliamentary debate and a plethora of written parliamentary questions.  All saying exactly the same things!

Perhaps this lack of progress is not really surprising.  After all, the whole point about camps is that they are transitory.  The camp moves, everyone calms down and some other local issue takes centre stage.  We usually see a little flurry at election time but apart from that no single residents group, or MP or ward councillor maintains their interest for long.

But change can happen, we have seen that in Leeds alone where the cost savings from our new ‘negotiated stopping’ approach have been really significant, especially at a time when surely every authority would rather be keeping care homes or libraries open than throwing cash at a never ending merry-go-around.

Next article: "Molly's Adventures with Travellers - Learning Lessons?"

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