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Jake Bowers looks at how Drive 2 Survive's work with the Office for National Statistics has led to the increased visibility of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people



A new research report made with the help of Drive 2 Survive community researchers and members has helped inform the first in depth study of Gypsy and Traveller lived experience for the UK's official statistics agency - the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Working in partnership with the ONS and Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group, our community researchers brought Gypsy and Traveller community members together from across the South East and East of England to speak truth to power.


Compiled over the last year through in depth interviews with community members and focus groups that brought community members together with local and national government employees, we hope it will lead to significant policy changes towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. To help spread the findings of the report we have also produced an animation for the Office for National Statistics which can be seen below.


The new research was published last week and comes just days after results from the 2021 ONS Census have revealed that over 150,000 people now proudly identify as Gypsies and Travellers. The threefold increase in the visibility of our communities is to be celebrated even if it probably only represents 25% the true number of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the UK. A statement from the ONS about the research is below:



Watch the new animation produced for the UK's Office for National Statistics above


A new research report made with the help of Drive 2 Survive community researchers and members has helped inform the first in depth study of Gypsy and Traveller lived experience for the UK's official statistics agency - the Office for National Statistics. Compiled over the last year through in depth interviews with community members and focus groups that brought community members together with local and national government employees, we hope it will lead to significant policy changes towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. The new research was published last week and comes just days after results from the 2021 census have revealed that over 150,000 people now proudly identify as Gypsies and Travellers. The threefold increase in the visibility of our communities is to be celebrated even if it probably only represents 25% the true number of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the UK. A statement from the ONS about the research is below:


Gypsies’ and Travellers’ lived experiences, England and Wales: 2022

This is the first time the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has undertaken in-depth, qualitative research into the experiences, priorities and needs of Gypsy and Traveller communities in England and Wales. Today’s research was delivered in collaboration with Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group.



From the horses mouth: the animation positively shows the key findings of the report

This analysis is based on the accounts of over 50 community members from England and Wales who participated in life history interviews and/or one of 5 focus group discussions between December 2021 and April 2022. These were analysed to identify themes and patterns relating to people’s life experiences, focusing on areas such as homes, education, health and justice.

Commenting on the research, Dawn Snape from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said: “This is the first time we have been able to gather such candid insights into the views and experiences of Gypsy and Traveller communities. What comes across most clearly is how discriminated against people from these communities feel across every aspect of life, from experiences with education and healthcare, to where they live and interactions with the police. Many participants spoke of how damaging stereotypes were and of their desire to be accepted for who they are, and for their culture and values to be respected.”

Key findings

• Participants’ stories suggest differences in their desire to live a nomadic lifestyle today and the personal value it has to them. This can be shaped by their individual circumstances.

• Some Gypsies and Travellers felt that legislation in England and Wales makes it challenging to live nomadically in practice.

• The importance of close-knit family and social groups and of shared moral values was described by participants as fundamental to Gypsy and Traveller culture, communities and wellbeing.

• Participants recognised changes, some noting widening disparities between individuals and groups and between generations. This left some with a sense of uprootedness and loss of belonging while others saw new opportunities and embraced changing ideas in relation to education, housing, healthcare, and employment.

• Participants recurrently expressed a desire to be recognised as individuals, not on the basis of preconceived ideas about their ethnic group.

• Participants’ living situations varied greatly, from houses or flats (often referred to as bricks and mortar), to chalets on private land. Many lived on sites owned and managed by the local authority.

• Some participants continued to live a mostly nomadic lifestyle, stopping at transit sites or on the side of the road where they could. This was described as increasingly difficult due to the lack of authorised stopping places, the apprehension of being moved on by police if they stop elsewhere, and fears of prosecution.

• Regardless of accommodation needs and preferences, common to all participants was the desire to live somewhere they felt safe, with access to basic amenities like water, showers, and electricity. Living near to loved ones was also described as a priority, as was feeling they have a degree of choice over where and how they live.

• Delayed healthcare seeking and barriers to accessing healthcare could create vulnerability to negative health outcomes among Gypsies and Travellers. Participants believed environmental factors such as site locations and standards, and occupational hazards negatively impacted their own and others’ health. Perceived discrimination and derogatory attitudes of health care providers were also described by those who had accessed health services.

• Access to education ranged from some who had never been to school to others who had completed compulsory education or gained higher level qualifications. Some spoke of enjoying their education, but others described challenges, including perceived discriminatory behaviour from other students and teachers. A lack of flexibility in the education system and aspects of the curriculum, seen as contradictory to Gypsy and Traveller values, were given as reasons for withdrawing their children from mainstream education.

• Participants described barriers to employment, including related to formal qualifications, skills or education, and perceived discrimination from employers, colleagues and the settled community. They also spoke of facing difficulties in re-skilling from occupations seen as traditional among Gypsies and Travellers to new types of work. The introduction of new licencing requirements, such as the need for a license to sell and collect scrap metal (Scrap Metal Act 2013) were said to create barriers to employment in traditional occupations.

• Participants described fearing authorities, feeling misunderstood and unfairly treated, linked to their own and others’ experiences. This included fear of the police and perception that the police are untrustworthy, which made participants reluctant to report crime or seek help from the police. Positive initiatives, such as more familiar relationships with community liaison officers were also cited.

• Some laws were viewed as criminalising Gypsies’ and Travellers’ ways of life, such as collecting scrap metal or their ownership or horses. This added to a sense of marginalisation and injustice.

• Understanding, awareness, respect and involvement of Gypsies and Travellers within systems and processes affecting their lives were seen as important for improving relationships and prospects for the future.


The full report can be viewed and downloaded from the following link:


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