Gypsy, Roma and Travellers

Gypsy, Roma and Travellers


This chapter looks more closely at the health and wellbeing of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

Local strategy has put into place a Specialist Health Visitor for these communities and good engagement and rapport has been established, this has led to increased registering with GPs and accessing immunisations and early education. Close partnership working has been established between the Health Visitor and a Family worker to support these community families built on an understanding of and respect for traditions and cultural beliefs and needs.


Wokingham Borough Council has a GRT Multi-agency and a strategic group.  The groups are made of up of professionals from a wide range of agencies who work with the GRT community, as well as those who provide services to ensure that the community are involved.  They have a good knowledge about services and how to access them and promote and empower community cohesion for our local GRT communities.


Wokingham Borough Council has run many training sessions which are open to Council staff, partner agencies and voluntary sector groups.  In addition to this GRT History Month is regularly celebrated.


National planning policy (Planning Policy for Traveller Sites (PPTS) was published by DCLG in March 2012, this set out the Government’s aims.  These aims include that local planning authorities should develop fair and effective strategies to meet need through the identification of land for sites, and to promote more private traveller site provision while recognising that there will always be those travellers that cannot provide their own site.


Gypsy, Roma and Travellers (GRT) are among those experiencing the most significant inequality in healthcare access and outcomes in the UK, including low life expectancy, high co-morbidity, poor mental health, poor infant and maternal outcomes (Parry et al 2004).

In terms of health they continue to suffer poor health and low life expectancies and have some of the worst health outcomes of any ethnic minority group. 


The report by Greenfields & Brindley (2015). Impact of insecure accommodation and the living environment on Gypsies’ and Travellers’ health, highlights the lack of national data on the health status of GRT communities.  They highlight the poor health outcomes experienced by GRT communities as identified in the 2012 Ministerial Working Group report which provided a comprehensive summary of studies into the health status of these communities:  

  • 39% of Gypsies and Travellers have a long-term illness compared with 29% of age and sex matched comparators, even after controlling for socio-economic status and other marginalised groups
  • Travellers are 3 times more likely to have chronic cough or bronchitis, even after smoking is taken into account
  • 22% of Gypsies and Travellers reported having asthma and 34% reported chest pain compared to 5% and 22% of the general population
  • Gypsies and Travellers are nearly three times more likely to be anxious than average and just over twice as likely to be depressed
  • Irish Travellers are 3 times as likely to die by suicide than the general population
  •  There is an excessive prevalence of miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal deaths in Gypsy and Traveller communities and high rates of maternal death during pregnancy and shortly after childbirth
  • A high prevalence of diabetes has been reported in Gypsy and Traveller communities, and a lack of community knowledge of the risk factors
  • Studies show that Gypsy and Traveller women live 12 years less than women in the general population and men 10 years less, although recent research suggests the life expectancy gap could be much higher

It is estimated that there are approximately 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers living in the UK (Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT), 2011). However it is only since the 2011 census that these communities have been recognised and able to identify themselves yet according to the (Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2014), only 58,000 did so. So true data is not available.  Gypsies and Travellers may be reluctant to disclose their ethnicity for fear of discrimination and therefore all statistics relating to this community should be read with caution as they are likely to be under-reported.

National Trends:

Every January and July there is a national count of the number of Traveller caravans on both authorised and unauthorised sites. The most recent data is from January 2015. The total number of caravans was 20,123 which was an increase of 604 since January 2014. It is estimated that two thirds of the GRT community are living in brick houses.

  • 87% of caravans were on authorised land. The number of caravans on unauthorised sites has shown some decrease over the past five years. The greatest increase has been seen on authorised private sites. Source: Department for Communities and Local Government

  • In the January school census a count of pupil by ethnicity is undertaken. One category used identifies children who Gypsy or Roma and another identifies children who are Travellers of Irish Heritage. The data identifies 0.36% of all Primary School Children in England are Gypsy or Roma; 0.10% are Travellers of Irish Heritage. In Secondary Schools 0.22% of children in England are Gypsy or Roma; 0.03% are Travellers of Irish Heritage. Source: Department for Education
  • 42% of GRT are affected by a long-term condition (18% of the general population have a long-term condition)
  • GRTs report the highest level of perinatal infant mortality of all ethnic minorities
  • Poor mental health, excessive alcohol consumption and substance misuse are additional factors reflecting social exclusion
  • There is a lack of suitable accommodation and GP registration amongst GRT. Source: Royal College of General Practitioners

Local Trends:

The 2011 census reports that GRT population in Wokingham was 291 people and this represents just under 0.2% of the total population (ONS, 2011).  However, this does not align with the number of caravans on sites in Wokingham, see Table 1 below.  This may be because the GRT community are reluctant to identify their ethnicity for fear of discrimination. 


Table 1 

Authorised sites

Table 2 below shows the school population of GRT children in Wokingham.  There is a higher proportion of GRT children in primary schools compared to England and the South East.  Again, we believe this number is lower than the actual number of GRT children in local schools.


Table 2

Traveller school population

That only since 2011 have these groups been identified and there is much work to be done to bridge health inequalities of this community.


Since the publication of PPTS Wokingham has undertaken a fresh accommodation assessment for the Gypsy and Traveller community in the borough and began work on the development of a Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan which will set out how the Council will meet the identified need.  The Council has also secured planning permission and Homes and Communities Agency grant funding towards the extension and refurbishment of a Council owned site.

Health issues and disabilities are high amongst the Traveller groups with increased incidence of  diabetes (type 2), heart disease, respiratory conditions particularly asthma and bronchial conditions, kidney disease, depression, post natal depression, panic attacks, and learning difficulties. The report of the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the UK 1997-1999) found that Travellers have “possibly the highest maternal death rate among all ethnic groups.”

  • Consistent Health visitor and dedicated family worker
  • Continued training to support understanding of the GRT communities
  • We need to review access to play facilities on sites
  • Review GP and dentist service delivery
  • Continue to move forward with improvement where required to existing facilities.

Parry, G. et al. (2004): The Health Status of Gypsies and Travellers: Report of Department of Health Inequalities in Health Research Initiative, University of Sheffield, for more information please visit The Health Status of Gypsies & Travellers in England (PDF).

Greenfields & Brindley, et al (2015). Impact of insecure accommodation and the living environment on Gypsies’ and Travellers’ health,  A report by the Traveller Movement: principal authors Margaret Greenfields and Matthew Brindley.