Covid led to ‘increased stress and anxiety’ among Traveller and Roma communities

Department to evaluate inclusion strategy, Roderic O’Gorman tells committee

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman: ‘This year, €330,000 has been made available to the Traveller Counselling Service, which works from a culturally inclusive framework.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman: ‘This year, €330,000 has been made available to the Traveller Counselling Service, which works from a culturally inclusive framework.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to “increased stress and anxiety” in the Traveller and Roma communities, the Minister for Equality has said.

Roderic O’Gorman added that there has also been an increase in the number of members of the Travelling community who have sought help during the pandemic.

Speaking at the joint Oireachtas committee meeting on issues in the travelling community on Thursday, Mr O’Gorman said the Government is “committed to ensuring full equality of opportunity for Travellers and Roma and to remove barriers to their full and equal participation in Irish life”.

In his opening statement, he also acknowledged the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on their mental wellbeing.

“This year, €330,000 has been made available to the Traveller Counselling Service, which works from a culturally inclusive framework, and over €240,000 to the Traveller Mediation Service,” he said.

“One of Traveller Mediation Service’s unique attributes is that it employs Travellers as mediators who have the necessary understanding of Traveller culture and who inspire confidence in Travellers to avail of the service.”

He added: “There has been an increase as a result in the number of self-referrals to this service, including from Traveller women.”

Mr O’Gorman also provided an update on the implementation of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy (NTRIS), for which the Programme for Government commits to a review.

He confirmed that the department is seeking proposals for an evaluation of the process for implementation of three equality strategies – the Migrant Integration Strategy, the National Strategy for Women and Girls and NTRIS, which are all concluding this year.

The timeline for receipt of proposals is early December and the review will be complete by June 2022, he said.

“The reason that I have proceeded with an evaluation process that spans a number of equality strategies is because I want to put the focus on implementation and on good practice. The objectives of our equality strategies remain largely relevant,” he said.

“The key challenge is to ensure better delivery. That is a challenge that goes beyond NTRIS. I want to identify potential good practice in some areas that can be transferred to others. I also want to see how intersectionality can be addressed more coherently.”

On the provision of Traveller accommodation, Minister O’Gorman said “it is clear that improvements in the provision of appropriate accommodation need to continue”.

He added that the Traveller-specific accommodation budget for 2020 was €14.5 million and it was “fully utilised”.

It is expected that the 2021 budget of €15.5 million will also be fully spent, he said.