Parallel Lives

                                                                       Parallel Lives Project

                                            Identifying the Roma Community across the East of England


The Roma have been identified as the most vulnerable group in Europe; “disproportionately affected by poverty and discriminated against in employment, education, health care, and other services, they face obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. With the collapse of socialism in Central and Eastern Europe, Roma in the former Eastern Bloc lost what employment they had along with housing and social programmes. Facing racism and discrimination they fled as asylum seekers and later, after May 2004 (A8) and January 2007 (A2), became citizens of the European Union. However, subsequently, they faced anti-Roma attitudes in Western Europe, fuelled by negative media reports.

The Roma are not a homogenous ethnic group. They originate from various European Member States with different languages and cultures. In the UK Roma live in poor quality housing and in their countries of origin are subject to migration policies which may cause them to conceal their heritage in the UK. So it can be difficult for service providers to identify their Roma families.

Research into Roma has come from a small number of projects in the Midlands, North and London. East of England information is limited, making it challenging to establish the exact impact of Roma on existing resident communities. The 2011 Census included Gypsies and Irish Travellers for the first time, but the Roma were not defined as a specific ethnic category.

Professionals’ concerns about Roma include:

• Health 
• Poor housing
• Accessing education / Limited English
• Work opportunities
• Accessing services
• Poverty – lack of benefits
• Provision for children and youth
• Anti-social behaviour
• ‘Chaotic’ lifestyles
• Unable to reach Roma women
• Trafficking and modern day slavery.

Regional Information

In 2013 it was estimated that the East of England had around 4,700 Roma. The current population estimate is 10,000 as more Roma have come to the area to join existing communities. Recently professionals working with vulnerable adults (e.g. in Suffolk) have reported a greater demand on their services from the Roma.

The project will work with partners around the East of England to complete a detailed sub-regional data collection which will enable us to calculate the population size and its origins more systematically, and establish population projections. This will enable public service providers to share examples of best practice and experience with each other across the region to have a better understanding of their Roma populations in the East of England.

The project will be delivered in two phases:

Phase One:


The project team will conduct a 7-9 month scoping phase to collect data and gather local intelligence on Roma communities across the region. We will research and meet with organisations working with the Roma community, including education, health, housing professionals and the police. This process will simultaneously identify the key pressures on services, impacts on the resident community and the needs of sub-regional Roma populations.
Factors which may be impacting on community cohesion could include:

• Anti-Social Behaviour
• Children truanting
• Inappropriate use of A & E
• Relationships with authority

Phase Two:

• Identify at least one key Roma community champion in each part of the region with high concentrations of Roma people

• Consult them as an advisory group to develop a draft cultural competence training package for frontline staff in community and statutory organisations, including workshops; resource packs; guidebook covering culture; language support; religious practices and other issues identified through the scoping phase. Deliver 10 cultural awareness workshops throughout the East of England during year two of the project.

• Run a short series of coaching events for the Roma champions, bringing in expertise from outside the region if necessary, with the aim of developing bespoke training capacity within the region

• Following the coaching, regional Roma champions, with help from the Strategic Migration Partnership (SMP) and/or external trainers, pilot and adapt the training package

• Roll out the training across the key localities, involving experienced trainers, the community champions and others with expertise in Roma culture

• Work with the Roma champions on ways to develop sustainable networking of good practice – e.g. exchange visits to other projects

• Develop and run a minimum of five Open Dialogue Workshops across the areas with the greatest concentrations of Roma people based on a methodology used by the SMP, bringing together Roma community members and public sector employees for facilitated dialogue and mutual learning

We would really appreciate your time in completing as many of the questions that you can below if you work with Roma in your area:

What is your involvement with Roma people? 
Where are the Roma communities? 
What numbers of Roma people are there? 
Are the numbers going up, down or remaining stable? 
What are their countries of origin? 
Which languages do they speak? 
What is the make-up of the Roma community/communities? 
Do they have children at local schools? 
Where do they meet? 
What are the best ways to engage with them? 
Are they likely to self-disclose as Roma? 
Do they know which services they can engage with? 
Are there any barriers to services? 
Do service providers understand the differences between Gypsy, Roma and Travellers? 
Any other issues? 
Who else should we talk to? - Contacts in Education, Health, Housing, Social Services, Police/Emergency Services, Other 

If you have any questions regarding the project please get in contact with Project Officers:

Rachel Heathcock   rachel.heathcock@eelga.gov.uk – 01284 758311

Sue Hay sue.hay@eelga.gov.uk - 07920 257964