London Gypsies and Travellers is raising urgent concerns about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Gypsies and Travellers in London. With pitches on permanent sites and temporary stopping places thin on the ground, many families are struggling with overcrowding on available sites, leaving them unable to self-isolate if they are vulnerable or symptomatic.
LGT is in contact with a number of families who are facing the threat of the virus without access to basic amenities such as running water, sanitation or electricity, and has been supporting them to liaise with their local authorities to seek solutions.
As part of a joint initiative from Gypsy and Traveller support organisations across the country, LGT has written to London councils pointing out the particular health vulnerabilities among Gypsy and Traveller communities and calling on them to ensure that:
- everyone has access to water and sanitation
- all evictions are stopped
- periods of negotiated stopping will be offered to roadside families in the area.
The recommendations from LGT’s recent report ‘The potential for a negotiated stopping approach in London’ are particularly relevant under current circumstances, and local authorities are being urged to put measures in place which minimise risks for any families stopping roadside during this period.
LGT is concerned that decades of neglect in public health and housing policy will mean coronavirus will have a particularly severe effect on the Gypsy and Traveller community.
“This crisis should provide a stark wake-up call to councils and government,” says Debby Kennett, LGT Chief Executive. “Never have the calls by the Gypsy and Traveller community for safe and adequate housing, access to healthcare and dignity and rights been more urgent.”
In March, LGT co-signed a letter with Friends, Families and Travellers and 28 other organisations calling on the UK Government to urgently set out a clear plan for supporting Gypsy, Traveller and Boater communities in the face of COVID-19.
In the absence of guidance from central government, LGT has sought London-wide coordination from the Deputy Mayor for Housing, asking that he writes to all local authorities and also ensures that no evictions take place on land owned by the Greater London Authority. LGT has received an initial positive response and continues dialogue with the Mayor’s office on this issue.