Tackling child poverty - progress report 2023-2024: annex B - focus report on other marginalised groups at risk of poverty

A focus report looking at other marginalised groups at risk of poverty. It provides an evidence review on barriers across the three drivers of poverty and available evidence on what works.


Gypsy/Travellers refers to persons who wander or travel for the purpose of making or seeking their livelihood and includes those who live permanently or temporarily in settled housing.[29] This is the term used by National Records of Scotland to describe communities including Romany Gypsies and Scottish and Irish Travellers. The term may not be how the communities choose to identify themselves.

Figure 2: Visual summary of barriers and what works for Gypsy/Travellers
Info graphic


Graphic text beow:

What barriers do they face?

Income from employment

  • Poorer health and lower levels of literacy and education
  • Employer discrimination

Cost of living

  • Mobile dwellings are more expensive to heat and supply with power
  • Rural accommodation sites mean higher transport costs to school and work

Inform from social security and benefits in-kind

  • Prejudiced attitudes from DWP staff
  • Difficult to navigate Universal Credit forms
  • Digital exclusion when applications are online only

What works?

  • Tackling discrimination, stigma, and racism to support better access to public services
  • Addressing knowledge gaps on how to provide support into employment

Who are they?

In the 2022 census, 3,343 people in Scotland identified themselves as White: Gypsy/Traveller. However, this figure is generally agreed to be an underestimate of the population. This is because these communities may not be fully reached through traditional survey methods, may not identify with the categorisation in the census, or may opt to hide their identity due to historical discrimination against them. As a result, census records are likely to under-count true numbers.[30]

This community intersects with other risk factors for poverty. Gypsy/Travellers families in Scotland are more likely to:

  • Have mothers under 25 years of age[31]
  • Have three or more children[32]
  • Be headed by a single parent[32]

There is a lack of data on child poverty levels within the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland.[33] However, across Europe, it is estimated that 80% of Gypsy/Traveller children live below poverty lines.[34]

There are also other types of Travellers, such as Occupational Travellers, Show-people and New Age Travellers, as well as Roma from Central and Eastern Europe. These are all distinct groups with distinct cultural identities, traditions, and histories, many of whom no longer lead nomadic or ‘travelling’ lifestyles but who still maintain interlinked social and familial groups distinct from mainstream Scottish society as they have done for centuries. For example, the Scottish Census began counting its Roma population in 2021, and numbers are very small. However, Romani families share many of the disadvantages of other Gypsy/Traveller communities: racism, discrimination and social exclusion leading to poor outcomes in health, education, and employment.[35]

What barriers and challenges do Gypsy/Travellers experience in relation to child poverty?

Gypsies/Travellers have been persecuted for hundreds of years, experiencing violence, harassment, direct discrimination, displacement, and efforts to eradicate their culture. [36] This marginalisation persists today in many parts of the world at societal, institutional, and structural levels, blocking opportunities in the areas of public life that support social mobility, such as education, healthcare, and employment.36

Social exclusion in this group is exacerbated by the intersectional disadvantages of gender and disability. Gypsy/Traveller women, who are more likely than men in their families to be the key actor in interactions with GPs, schools, social workers, and accommodation providers,[37] experience an extra layer of discrimination when trying to access public services, and disabled Gypsy/Travellers experience even greater barriers.[38]

Challenges faced when aiming to increase income through employment

Recent evidence tells us that Gypsy/Travellers continue to face high levels of discrimination, judgement, and prejudice in Scotland.[39] For example, Scottish social attitudes data (2015) has revealed how this negative judgement extends into the employment realm; one in three people in Scotland (34% of respondents) felt that Gypsy/Travellers are unsuitable primary school teachers.[40]

Qualifications are another barrier. Lower levels of literacy and education make it harder to find and keep a job. More than 60% of UK Gypsy/Traveller households have no one with any formal educational qualifications, compared to 10% amongst the general population.[32]

The increasingly digitalised economy and the decline of many traditionally manual jobs has disproportionately disadvantaged Gypsy/Travellers, many of whom favour self-employment and vocational skills passed down the generations.[41]

Other issues around employment include: being evicted by local authorities from unauthorised encampments making it difficult to plan and consistently attend work; accommodation site challenges in accessing stable broadband to apply for jobs online; and a gendered male ‘breadwinner’ culture that encourages women to avoid employment to carry out unpaid domestic and care work in the home.[42]

Challenges faced when aiming to increase income through social security

Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland felt that DWP staff held derogatory attitudes towards them and were discriminating in their interactions. They reported that this made them feel stressed and anxious every time they had to speak to DWP or the Jobcentre.[43]

Gypsy/Travellers perceived the Universal Credit (UC) application to be complex and difficult to navigate, and it was felt that questions in the forms and assessments were designed to stop people to making successful UC applications.[43]

The process of applying can also be more difficult. Gypsy/Traveller communities are generally less likely to have access to a stable broadband connection and are more likely than other groups to be digitally excluded, leading to issues in accessing state benefits for which applications need to be made online.41

Challenges faced when aiming to reduce their cost of living

There are some specific issues that can make costs of living higher.

  • A recent study in Northern Ireland found that mobility and home energy costs are relatively higher for Gypsy/Traveller families than for the majority population.[36]
  • Poorly insulated and mobile accommodation necessitates the use of expensive natural gas canisters, diesel generators, or pre-paid electricity meters costing up to £10 per day, leaving less money for food and wellbeing.[36]
  • The tendency of Gypsy/Traveller sites to be in rural locations with a lack of public transport often requires the ownership of a car to transport children to school and to get to work.[36]

What do we know works to support Gypsy/Travellers?

This overview of what works is based on what the evidence states should work considering the barriers known, rather than on empirical reviews of what works in practice.

Addressing racial discrimination and harassment is already a cross-cutting aim[44] relevant to the child poverty agenda but is particularly relevant for Gypsy/Travellers. Policies or interventions should actively address the discrimination, stigma, and structural and cultural racism that this group faces every day. As such, anti-poverty policies should have a greater focus on race.

Addressing data gaps to better understand the barriers Gypsy/Travellers face in Scotland relating to accessing education, employment, and income from social security benefits[45]. Currently, the Scottish Government, in partnership with COSLA, is undertaking a listening exercise with Gypsy/Traveller communities to understand what their priorities are. This is to help the Scottish Government develop a new Action Plan for this group. The research started in Summer 2023 and aims to conclude in Summer 2024.

Supporting income through employment by providing targeted support for Gypsy/Travellers to develop their own business, alongside accessing funding and training to do so.[46] There is also evidence from elsewhere in the UK that highlights building the trust of Gypsy/Travellers through positive interactions with services such as healthcare, the police, and local authorities can support Gypsy/Travellers’ engagement with other services.[47],[48]


Email: TCPU@gov.scot

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