4. Food, fuel and wider assistance
All aspects of local resilience plans will need to take account of the needs of Gypsy/Travellers, for example in relation to support for people at risk of poverty and services for children and families as well as the provision of health and social care. Particular pressures over winter may impact on income and employment opportunities.
Gypsy/Travellers may need additional support or advice to help them to access any benefits they are entitled to or other forms of financial relief provided by either the UK or Scottish Government, including self-isolation grants where these are available and local support such as the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF). Local authorities continue to provide a vital safety net to people facing financial insecurity including through the SWF – with over £30m paid out to support people in need from April to November 2021. Additionally, the £41m Winter Support Fund includes £25 million flexible funding to local authorities to support wellbeing by tackling financial insecurity. Local authorities have flexibility to meet emerging local needs, with guidance providing a strong steer in favour of cash-first responses.
Support and money advice can be accessed from community and local authority advice services as well as agencies supported by the Scottish Government such as Stepchange, Money Advice Trust, Christians Against Poverty, Citizens Advice Scotland and Advice Direct Scotland.
The Scottish Government invested over £140m in tackling food insecurity during the first year of the pandemic, including providing local authorities with £70 million flexible funding to tackle food and financial insecurity. Guidance highlighted that local partners may use resource from their Food Fund allocation to support households that are marginalised, which includes Gypsy/Travellers, noting that community organisations that already provide support to people in this category may be well placed to provide this as part of a coordinated approach. From November 2021 to January 2022, The Scottish Government consulted on a national plan to end the need for food banks as a primary response to food insecurity. The draft plan reaffirms our human rights approach – we prioritise action to prevent poverty and promote cash-first responses to hardship so that people have sufficient income to meet their needs and preferences. We know that submissions on behalf of Gypsy/Traveller households and communities have been made to this consultation and anticipate that the final version of this plan will recognise and reflect the views put forward.
When designing local responses to address food insecurity, it is important that Local Authorities make sure that these responses consider the needs of Gypsy/Travellers, who may not be engaged with local services and so may not be aware of hardship supports like the Scottish Welfare Fund, money advice services and food provision.
Households may also need more frequent help or advice on storing supplies that they may need to self-isolate or physically distance, if there is not enough space to store these within their home.
4.3 Fuel and Fuel Poverty
Gypsy/Travellers are at high risk of fuel poverty and may struggle to top up electricity meters during this period. Home Energy Scotland can provide support to residents who are struggling with their fuel bills and are working in partnership with MECOPP to provide assistance, including facilitating same-day support to top up prepayment meters in the event of imminent disconnection. They offer free and impartial advice, funded by the Scottish Government, and they have the latest information from energy suppliers and the government. If any residents are struggling, please encourage them to call free on 0808 808 2282, visit homeenergyscotland.org for help or discuss this support further with MECOPP Gypsy/Traveller Carers' Project who can access support on their behalf.
4.4 Domestic Gender Based Violence
Cultural sensitivities around lifestyle choices and privacy should be recognised at all times when communicating with Gypsy/Traveller women in relation to gender based violence (GBV). The negative impact of misconceptions around GBV within the community should be challenged and care taken not to infer stereotypes of Gypsy/Traveller women as victims or men as being dominant or aggressive.
Within NHS Scotland, Routine Enquiry about abuse takes place in the following settings, maternity, sexual health, health visiting, substance misuse and mental health. Recently there has been a programme of work to support the use of the DASH Risk Identification Checklist. This is a structured validated tool designed to identify people at high risk or serious or lethal harm in the context of domestic abuse.
Officers should consider appropriate methods of developing supportive conversation and giving discrete information around safety planning and specialised helplines. Literacy levels, feelings of failure as a mother and wife, fear of rejection within her community or of others within the community dealing with the violence internally may present as barriers to engagement or disclosure from women.
COSLA and Scottish Government have developed a joint COVID-19-Supplementary VAW Guidance for Local Authorities. Cross reference should be made to this guidance. COSLA will be considering the guidance further to ensure that women and children vulnerable to domestic abuse from the Gypsy/Traveller communities are more visible within it:
Scotland's National Domestic Abuse Helpline is available 24/7/365 - 0800 027 1234 – and web and email services can be accessed at:
4.5 Education - Scottish Traveller Education Programme (STEP)
STEP Families website supports Gypsy/Traveller families to continue with young people's education while staying at home. The site contains a range of culturally-relevant learning activities. There are also links to Local Authority staff in all areas and information on gaining digital access to education.
4.6 Young Gypsy/Travellers
Article 12 works with Young Gypsy/Travellers and is undertaking additional work to enable young Gypsy/Travellers' and their families engaging with Gypsy/Traveller education services to continue to maintain contact during the COVID-19 restrictions.
MECOPP also has a young carers worker who provides support to young people with caring responsibilities in the Gypsy/Traveller community.
4.7 Reporting Hate Crimes
Communities and individuals may feel vulnerable as a result of COVID-19 and Police Scotland continue to urge victims and witnesses of hate crime to report it.
A hate crime can include name calling, harassment, graffiti or a physical attack motivated by prejudice or ill-will towards a social group. Social groups covered by hate crime legislation are disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity. What you may view as a minor incident can have a major impact. Anyone who experiences or witnesses such an incident, should be encouraged to report it by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency, or by using the online hate crime reporting form on the Police Scotland website.
If they do not feel comfortable reporting the matter directly to Police, there is a network of Third Party Reporting (TPR) Centres available to provide support remotely during the current situation. Although, at the moment, people cannot attend a TPR centre in person, many organisations are now offering an option to report an incident over the telephone or via e-mail. Please visit the TPR page of the Police Scotland website for more information on Third Party Reporting and for a list of active centres.
4.8 Gypsy/Traveller Scotland: Public Information Service Facebook Page
This moderated Facebook page is endorsed by COSLA and the Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland, Article 12, MECOPP and STEP.
The Facebook page should be promoted as a source of up to date information, including videos recorded by community members on particular issues. It can also be a way of gathering feedback about issues and difficulties the community is facing. This may also be a route for communicating with Gypsy/Travellers in a specific area or region. If you would like to use the page please contact dominique@COSLA.gov.uk
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