Negotiation all set to continue!
Leeds GATE is very happy to announce that one of the UK’s leading grant makers, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, has agreed to support our negotiated stopping project for the next three years! Thankfully the grant making panel recognised the appetite that exists for change in how the police, local authorities, indeed whole local communities, respond to temporary encampment by Gypsy and Traveller people in their areas.
This funding is going to enable the team at GATE to focus on two distinct lines of work. Firstly we will continue to support the negotiated stopping policy and practice development here in Leeds, aiming to ‘spread’ the good practice across West Yorkshire. Secondly we will be operating a national steering group to advise the project and to share and encourage good practice across the UK.
A quick search of almost any local newspaper will bring up negative reports about unauthorised encampment by Gypsy or Traveller people. Such articles almost universally focus on efforts to persuade or force the camp to move as quickly as possible and usually describing complaints of environmental damage or nuisance. This recent article from Ealing Common is a great example.
The article describes costly, and ultimately fruitless, efforts to remove a camp, which then reappears nearby. Whilst detailing complaints made, about rubbish and toileting (and being able to see into the caravans?!), it does not describe any actions to manage the cause of complaints, namely by provision of sanitary and refuse services. In a nutshell this article provides an illustration of everyday circumstances happening across the length and breadth of the country. Whilst local communities, local government, and local police services invest their efforts into removing camps, we see that daily problems which create difficulties for communities trying to live well together, go unaddressed.
We believe, and have evidence to suggest (see our evaluation report here) that things can change. If practical problems can be resolved so that quality of life for settled people can be secured alongside positive and inclusive responses to roadside encampments, then why should we be spending so much money and officer time on action to remove camps? We certainly do know that this approach only moves camps rapidly around and around. By excluding people we undermine any chance we might have had to influence positive behaviour change. We believe that a package of other measures – what we call negotiated stopping – can lead to changes in behaviour which make living next door to a camp a ‘non’ issue. Then our public resources can be better invested in where we really need them.
Is this project just about camps and Gypsies? In one way yes, we are entirely focussed on helping to develop good practice around camp management, improving quality of life and saving money. However, we are convinced that our work is part of a greater need for communities to learn the practice of living well together. We can’t live our lives unaffected by other people, we can’t demand that other people disappear, and we can’t improve our own quality of life at the cost of a reduction in quality of life for someone else. This project is all about learning the practice of living together, learning how to overcome differences in beliefs and cultures, how to influence positive and inclusive behaviours. We think that this project gives us a chance to learn about living well together which is important for all communities.
We want to thank all our supporters, including Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and Lloyds Bank Foundation, and especially our colleagues in Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police, who have helped us to get this far. We have a fantastic opportunity now, thanks to Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, to take this work forward, watch this space!