Travellers hit hardest by cuts in State funding

Accommodation spending down 85 per cent, Pavee Point-commissioned report shows

A Traveller caravan in Tullow, Co Carlow. Photograph: David Sleator

A Traveller caravan in Tullow, Co Carlow. Photograph: David Sleator


No section of society has suffered as sustained a withdrawal of State funding over the past five years as Travellers, according to a landmark report published this morning.

The report, Travelling with Austerity , commissioned by the Traveller-support organisation Pavee Point, looks at the impact of austerity since 2008 on the community.

It finds State spending on Traveller education has fallen 86 per cent since 2008; Traveller accommodation spending is down 85 per cent; spending on equality projects has fallen by 76.3 per cent; on Fás special initiatives for Travellers by 50 per cent; on Traveller youth projects by 30 per cent and on health projects by 5.4 per cent.

These cuts “should be compared to the overall reduction in government current spending of 4.3 per cent over 2008-2013” writes author Brian Harvey, an independent social researcher.

These cuts, he says, are “complicated” and exacerbated by significant underspending by statutory bodies of the declining amounts allocated.

Some 82 per cent of the Traveller health budget allocated was spent since the recession began in 2008, and 18 per cent unspent; 64 per cent of the accommodation budget was spent with 36 per cent unspent while just 60 per cent of the budget allocated for the Fás special initiative was spent.

“These figures tell an egregious story of an extraordinary level of disinvestment by the Irish State in the Traveller community,” says the author. “One can think of no other section of the community which has suffered such a high level of withdrawal of funding and human resources, compounded by the failure of the State to spend even the limited resources that it has made available.”

The reductions in the accommodation and education budgets were “especially impactful” given the continued hardship faced by many Travellers on halting sites and in poor-quality, privately rented accommodation, and given the still wide gap in educational opportunities between the Traveller and the settled communities.

“Worrying reports are already coming through on the negative consequences for Travellers at school.”

On the underspending on accommodation, the report notes: “It is remarkable, at a time of pressure on Traveller accommodation, that significant funds of money already allocated are not being drawn down and revert to the Department [of the Environment] unspent. The issue has been endemic for years and has never been convincingly explained . . . Looking at need, the 2011 national housing needs survey found 1,824 Traveller households in need of accommodation.”

It says significant numbers of Travellers are now living in dispersed privately rented accommodation, the proportion having risen from 7 per cent in 1998 to 32 per cent in 2011 – “a dramatic change”.