Roma Community - East of England
The Parallel Lives Project found that across the East of England between 2017-2020 the largest concentrations of Roma people were found in Luton, Ipswich, Peterborough and Southend-on-Sea. The main countries from which Roma people were believed to originate by local partner agencies in these local authority areas were Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Roma relationships with the established community
The wider local communities in the four parts of the region with the largest Roma populations are themselves extremely ethnically diverse. Significant numbers of the established community are non-Roma Eastern Europeans. The project found that some of this more established Eastern European community could be particularly hostile toward the Roma community, especially if they perceived Roma people to be causing problems which might reflect negatively on them. For example, large groups of men in public places creating noise, crowding, and littering, along with reports of Roma people emptying oil into street drainage systems, failing to insure vehicles, unsafe driving, and aggressive begging.
The project identified several challenges faced by professionals working with the Roma community. This included teachers struggling with the complex needs of Roma children and their families. Families had often had transient lifestyles which had limited children's access to education and meant that schools needed to guide families through the complexities of not just registering for school places, but also accessing appropriate housing, healthcare and other forms of support. In order to meet these challenges effectively, many schools have employed Roma teaching assistants to help Roma families integrate successfully.
Healthcare professionals often struggle to engage effectively with Roma families. Doctors, dentists midwives, health visitors and others have all had to adapt their practices and communications in order to support Roma communities appropriately. Interpreters have a vital role to play in facilitating access to health services, along with an understanding of the chronic poverty and disadvantage which many Roma people have experienced, resulting in persistent health inequalities and a life expectancy gap for Roma communities of between five to twenty years. Professionals may be challenged by Roma people for not prescribing pills, antibiotics or carrying out other interventions to cure an illness. For Roma people, having practitioners who care and want to understand their issues can be a new concept and it can take time and a consistent approach for them to understand that medication isn’t always the solution. But as more people engage, and opportunities to learn English increase, practices are changing and healthcare relationships are adapting and improving.
Engagement and Integration
In the East of England there are a number of key issues affecting many Roma people, which pose a particular challenge to local service providers and the wider community. These include exploitation, overcrowded and insecure rented accommodation, language barriers and inadequate documentation e.g. identity papers. Many organisations have recognised these challenges and established multi-agency support groups to ensure that these issues are being managed. In Ipswich the Ipswich Roma Inclusion and Support Group (IRIS) has been established and in Luton, work has taken place to develop Luton Roma Interagency Forum. It is important to remember, and it is often overlooked, that moving a whole family to a new country is a significant challenge, and that people do it in the hope that they are creating a better life for themselves and their children. Effective engagement and integration forms a vital part of helping achieving that aspiration.
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