Gypsy & Irish Traveller Community Groups

Who are Gypsies and Travellers?

The term ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ is difficult to define as it does not constitute a single, homogenous group, but encompasses a range of groups with different histories, cultures and beliefs including: Romany Gypsies, Welsh Gypsies, Scottish Gypsy Travellers and Irish Travellers. There are also Traveller groups which are generally regarded as ‘cultural’ rather than ‘ethnic’ Travellers. These include ‘New’ (Age) Travellers and occupational travellers, such as showmen and waterway travellers.

Historically there has been a lack of robust data on Gypsy and Traveller communities. For the first time, the 2011 Census included an ethnic category to collect data on Gypsy, Traveller and Irish Traveller communities. In total around 63,000 people in the UK identified themselves as members of these groups, of which 58,000 were living in England and Wales. The South East region of England had both the largest number of Gypsies and Irish Travellers and the largest number per 10,000 people. However, other sources suggest the 2011 Census figures may be underestimates.

Health needs

A number of studies have identified the poor health experiences of Gypsy and Traveller groups compared with the general population, including higher rates of mortality, morbidity and long-term health conditions, low child immunisation levels, and a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression. A range of factors, such as poor accommodation, discrimination, poor health literacy, and a lack of cultural awareness and understanding by health professionals of Gypsy and Traveller health and social needs, are thought to create barriers to accessing healthcare.

The National Inclusion Health Board has called for more joined up working by local authorities, the NHS and responsible health agencies, and local public health services to improve the health outcomes of Gypsies and Travellers. It also emphasised the importance of building community cohesion in order to develop a healthy and sustainable environment for the Traveller community. The Royal College of General Practioners has published a toolkit on commissioning for socially excluded groups. NHS England has published a leaflet for Gypsy and Travellers communities to explain how they can register with a doctor.

The Government has commissioned research to investigate approaches to community engagement that are most likely to enhance trust between Gypsy and Traveller communities and health services. The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has made a number of recommendations to improve health policy and service provision for Gypsy and Traveller communities. ( 2019)

National Maternity Review Engagement and Outreach work with Gypsies and
Travellers: Focus Group for NHS England: