Gypsies and travellers have been a part of British society for centuries. There are around 300,000 Gypsies and travellers in the United Kingdom. In England, between 90,000 and 120,000 Gypsies and travellers live in caravans and up to three times as many live in conventional housing.   

Gypsies and travellers have significantly poorer health than the general population.

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Last updated: 2013-02-12 06:52:47
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1. What are the key issues?

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Last updated: 10/10/11

2. What commissioning priorities are recommended?


Fund all the site maintenance costs (refurbishment and renewal).


Extend the site lease upon its expiry, to ensure effect site management (supported by council officers).


Increase the number of authorised encampments in Redcar & Cleveland.


Change people’s opinions of the Gypsy and travelling community, to ensure that the community can integrate within the settled community (supported by council officers).


Residents should be encouraged to work in partnership with the contractor in the final design of the community facilities. It is also expected that they will take an active role in aspects of the site refurbishment to encourage a feeling of ownership and pride in their environment.


Officers have also explored options for green energy provision on the site with colleagues in the Energy Service, particularly in relation to the installation of photovoltaic cells.

Last updated: 12/02/13

3. Who is at risk and why?


  • Life expectancy for Gypsies and travellers (GT) is 10 years less than the national average
  • Infant mortality is twenty times higher than the national average.
  • There are low levels of immunisation for children; this is due to high mobility, lack of continuing care or a lack of specialist health visitors for the GT community.
  • The GT expectation is for adolescent males to be economically active at an early age and for young females to care for the home and children.



  • Experience domestic abuse.
  • Low uptake of screening services (including cervical screening).
  • Higher rates of maternal death.


  • Not accessing services, particularly healthcare services due to the health belief  (self-reliance and staying in control) and attitude of acceptance of ill-health.
  • High risk of premature death from cardiac disease.

Socioeconomic status

  • Income reliant on self-employment.


  • GTs living in a trailer (on a council site) or in a house are more likely to have long-term illness (chest pain, asthma and bronchitis are significantly higher) than those on a private site or empty land.
  • GTs are more likely to be caring for a dependent relative as they would be ashamed to give any impression that they were unable or unwilling to look after their older members.
  • Larger than average size families often live in unsuitable accommodation.

Mental health

  • GTs are more likely to experience social exclusion. 
  • GTs often do not settle in a tenure that wasn’t desirable (i.e. when they move into “bricks and mortar”) and can suffer from poor mental health as a result.


  • The average age of dropping out of full-time education for GT children is 11 to 13-years-old. Reasons for drop out could be family mobility, gender roles and expectations, different views on age of maturity, concerns about sex education and peer influences. 
  • Less than 10% of GT children obtained five GCSEs A*-C grades (including English and maths), compared to a national average of 53%.
  • There is a rising trend of elective home education among Irish travellers.


  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of young travellers are bullied or attacked because of their ethnicity.
  • Victims of race hate crime are largely unreported.

Learning disabilities

  • GTs are likely to be identified as having special educational needs (SEN), and are also four times more likely to be excluded from school as a result of their behaviour.
Last updated: 12/02/13

4. What is the level of need in the population?

It is difficult to establish the level of demand within each local authority due to the transitory nature of the Gypsy and traveller communities and the presence of the hidden population that may exist in traditional housing. To ensure accommodation needs for the Gypsy and traveller community is provided, the Housing Act 2004 (s255) required a Gypsy and Traveller Assessment (GTAA) to be carried out by each local authority by 2007.

The number of caravans in the North East and Redcar & Cleveland has remained stable in recent years.  However, the future need for accommodation pitches for this community is expected to increase.

The count of the Gypsy and traveller’s caravan’s takes place every six months. The number of caravans on both authorised and unauthorised sites across England is recorded.  The total number of caravans in Redcar & Cleveland has risen from 11 (2009) to 20 (2011), but there aren’t any caravans on unauthorised sites in 2011.

Month /Year

Total number of caravans: authorised sites including local authority and private sites

Total number of caravans: unauthorised Sites

Total number of caravans

Jan 2011




Jul 2010




Jan 2010




Jul 2009




Jan 2009




Source: Communities and Local Government, 2011.

Last updated: 12/02/13

5. What services are currently provided?

Health & welfare

In order to demonstrate a commitment to improving the health of Gypsy and traveller communities within Redcar & Cleveland, NHS Tees Primary Care Trust worked in partnership with Surestart and the local authority on a Gypsy and traveller health assessment. The assessment process identified that Gypsies and travellers wanted a health ‘drop in service’ at the Haven permanent residential site in South Bank. The drop in service was available on the site until it closed in 2007. When the site reopened in 2008 site residents tended to go to A&E rather than attempt to register with a local GP.   

The new walk-in facility available at Low Grange Health Village provides a valuable service for those who reside on The Haven site in South Bank.  

A national outbreak of measles amongst the travelling community occurred in 2010. Officers worked with the local PCT to visit the site and carry out inoculations and gave details of other traveller sites within the area. Residents took this opportunity to register with a local GP.

In September 2010, the National Association of Gypsy Travellers Women met with all the female residents from the site with the aim to help improve some of the issues women face within the Gypsy and traveller’s community (e.g. poor health care and domestic violence).


The Traveller Education Consortium provides services to Gypsy and traveller children in Redcar & Cleveland.  Officers work with colleagues in the Travellers Education team. All children on the site attend local schools.

Travellers Education provides the following services for travellers who live on the Haven site or are on unauthorised encampments in Redcar & Cleveland:

  • Advise families on how to access local schools for their children;
  • Help children integrate into school (both socially and educationally) in partnership with teachers by providing short-term pastoral and/or in-school support;
  • Advise schools on the preparation of distance learning packs and support their implementation;
  • Raise awareness in schools about Gypsy and traveller lifestyles and culture (including issues that may affect attendance); and
  • Support schools to encourage transfer from pre-school to primary school and from primary school to secondary school.     

Unauthorised encampments

When an unauthorised encampment arises, Redcar & Cleveland Council will apply its unauthorised encampment procedure. Each encampment is considered on an individual basis, balancing the welfare needs of Gypsies and travellers with their resident communities. When officers determine if an unauthorised encampment on council-owned land is to be tolerated for a period of time, significant welfare issues such as advanced pregnancy, serious ill health or educational needs are taken into consideration.

Last updated: 12/02/13

6. What is the projected level of need?

After extensive consultation with the travelling community, the Haven site was reopened in 2007 and leased for five years in 2008 (to an experienced site provider and member of the travelling community). The permanent Gypsy and traveller residential site provides thirteen units of accommodation, one warden unit and has four/five transit pitches. 

Of the units available for permanent site occupation, 90% are currently occupied.

Due to the age of the site, maintenance costs are rising, exacerbated by poor winter weather in recent years.

There is an increase in the number of unauthorised encampments in Redcar & Cleveland. There has been a steady growth in the number of unauthorised encampments. However, this year has seen a marked increase (fourteen being located in the previous twelve months). The size of the encampments has varied.

Last updated: 12/02/13

7. What needs might be unmet?

Maintenance costs are rising (due to the age of the site), which has been exacerbated by poor winter weather in recent years. Existing units need to undergo complete internal and external refurbishment. Including the replacement of wooden framed windows and doors, renewal of rainwater goods, a full rewire, installation of electric showers and shower cubicles and renewal of kitchen units.

Last updated: 12/02/13

8. What evidence is there for effective intervention?

Primary Care Service Framework: Gypsy and Traveller Communities, 2009

Improving the Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pupils: Final Report, 2010

Communities and local Government, 2008

(Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites: Good Practice Guide)

Getting Health Care, Friends, Family and Traveller, 2011

Last updated: 12/02/13

9. What do people say?

Current residents of the site have participated in a consultation exercise concerning the proposed site refurbishment. They have been supportive of the proposed works and also provided comments as to how the site could be improved.

Last updated: 12/02/13

10. What additional needs assessment is required?

No additional needs assessment is required at present.

Last updated: 12/02/13

Key Contact

Name: Val Mitchell

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