Repeated failures on access to health and social care for the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland have been strongly criticised by the Equal Opportunities Committee which described itself as appalled and horrified at the discrimination highlighted in a report published today.
The Gypsy/Travellers and Care report highlights as extremely concerning an average male life expectancy of 55 years, poor quality encampments located beside landfill sites and under electricity pylons, GP surgeries refusing to see patients, and unimplemented government recommendations and short-term initiatives.
Committee Convener Mary Fee MSP said:
“If we were to substitute any other ethnic minority instead of Gypsy/Travellers in our report there would be uproar at the obvious racial discrimination. Yet, our report shows that despite initiatives in the last 15 years by successive governments, very little real change has actually been achieved to improve the lives of Gypsy/Travellers.
“Access to health and social care alongside other public services must be universal. We look to the Scottish Government now to take the lead in making real, significant changes to the lives of Gypsy/travellers, with speed and commitment.”
The committee’s report recommendations also highlighted further issues including:
- An investigation into the extensive delays in waiting times for aids and adaptations for elderly and/or disabled individuals living in caravans and chalets.
- An assurance that alternative options for care support should be considered including drop-in surgeries and/or a network for GPs to share information on patients who may move from one local authority to another.
- Strong leadership at management level in public sector services should ensure that policies on GP registration and treatment take into account cultural sensitivities and do not indirectly discriminate by requiring a fixed address for example.
The Session 3 Equal Opportunities Committee carried out work looking into carer’s issues, and recognised that work was necessary on minority ethnic carers. The Scottish Government’s 2010 strategy Caring Together: The Carer’s Strategy for Scotland 2010-2015, acknowledged that little was known about certain groups of carers, such as Gypsy/Travellers. Given the information made available through MECOPP’s work, the Equal Opportunities Committee launched the inquiry Gypsy/Travellers and Care at the oral evidence stage.
The Equal Opportunities Committee is also conducting a second inquiry, titled Where Gypsy/Travellers Live, expected to report in early 2013.
The source of the life span of Gypsy/Traveller community is Dr Iain McNicol. (Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee, Official Report, 29 May, 2012).