Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai

Local Government and Housing Committee

18/05/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies MS
Carolyn Thomas MS
Joel James MS
John Griffiths MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS
Sam Rowlands MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Assia Kayoueche Swyddog Cyfathrebu, Ymgyrchoedd ac Aelodaeth, Cynghrair Hil Cymru
Communications, Campaigns and Membership Officer, Race Alliance Wales
Jasmine Jones Gypsies and Travellers Wales
Gypsies and Travellers Wales
Martin Gallagher Actifydd Sipsiwn, Roma a Theithwyr, Ysgrifennwr ac Ymchwilydd Academaidd
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Activist, Writer and Academic Researcher
Trudy Aspinwall Rheolwr Tîm, Teithio Ymlaen: Gwasanaeth Cyngor ac Eiriolaeth ar gyfer cymunedau Sipsiwn, Roma a Theithwyr
Travelling Ahead: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Advice and Advocacy Service

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Hunt Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Chloe Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Jonathan Baxter Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Manon George Clerc
Clerk
Osian Bowyer Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:00.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Okay, welcome, everyone to this meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. The first item on the agenda today is introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. The meeting is being held in a hybrid format. Apart from the adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in that format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of the meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation is available. Are there any declarations of interest? No.

2. Ymchwiliad i ddarparu safleoedd ar gyfer cymunedau Sipsiwn, Roma a Theithwyr—sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
2. Inquiry into the provision of sites for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers—evidence session 1

Item 2 on our agenda today then is our first evidence session in relation to the committee's inquiry into the provision of sites for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers in Wales. Could I ask the witnesses we have before us to introduce themselves, please? Starting, perhaps, with Trudy.

Good morning, everyone. My name is Trudy Aspinwall. I'm the team manager for a Tros Gynnal Plant Cymru service, the Travelling Ahead advice and advocacy service. We work across Wales, providing support and advocacy for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families and communities.

Hi, my name's Jasmine Jones. I'm the manager at Gypsies and Travellers Wales, a small organisation that provides advice and advocacy to Gypsies and Travellers.

Good morning, everyone. My name's Martin Gallagher. I also work at Travelling Ahead, and I'm a PhD fellow at Northumbria University.

Diolch yn fawr. And with us here in person, Assia. Would you like to briefly introduce yourself, please?

My name is Assia, and I work with Race Alliance Wales. We are a member-led organisation made up of individuals and organsiations interested in achieving race equality in Wales. 

Okay, diolch yn fawr. Perhaps I might begin then with some initial questions and, firstly, quite generally, really, to explore the main challenges for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers—the main challenges faced on a day-to-day basis in terms of finding residential and transit sites in Wales. Who would like to begin in response to those issues? Trudy.

Thank you, Chair. An interesting question to start off with. I think what struck me was the use of the phrases 'day to day' and 'week to week', in that, in relation to permanent residential provision of sites, people are and have been waiting for years for enough site provision in Wales. I think it was back in 2010 that there was an estimate by Welsh Government that there was a shortfall of at least 100 pitches across Wales. The estimates remain the same. So, in terms of Gypsy and Traveller communities who want to live in culturally appropriate accommodation, the picture is characterised by many, many families living, potentially, on sites doubling up with family members because there hasn't been enough site provision, with long waiting lists, and people living in bricks and mortar, in housing, who have had to leave living on sites or leave travelling and move into houses and who would really wish to return to a more culturally nomadic way of life, living in small family groups with family on sites and in other situations, but are just really unable to do so. We also have families who have sought to meet their own needs through purchasing pieces of land and developing small family sites through the planning process. Similarly, many, many of the families we work with have been waiting years for those small sites to be authorised, and have been up against huge challenges through the planning system and through opposition to even the smallest family site. So, it's not day-to-day or week-to-week for those people waiting for permanent residential provision; it's year-to-year. That's the kind of challenge we're talking about.

In relation to transit sites, there's a general duty on the Government to facilitate a nomadic way of life, and there's a specific duty on the Welsh Government to assess and provide for the needs of nomadic Travellers and provide transit sites, which would be legal places that people could stop and have access to basic facilities while they're travelling, which could be for social, cultural or economic reasons. Some families travel all year round, some travel just some of the time. There remain zero transit sites in Wales. For example, our advocacy service will sometimes receive phone calls from families in England saying, 'We're coming to Wales. We hear it's better in Wales. Where are the transit sites?' and we have to say, 'There are no transit sites.'

Just as a very brief introduction, I think those are some of the main challenges around finding residential and transit sites. There's still a severe shortage, and there's not the kind of provision or network or support that there should be for Gypsy and Traveller families.

09:05

Trudy, in terms of that mention you made of some families perhaps thinking that things might be better in Wales, is there a particular basis for that?

Yes. The basis for that is that, in Wales, we have a duty to both assess the need for accommodation, both residential and transit, and to meet that need. That was brought back in under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. That duty doesn't exist in England in the same way. There is a duty to assess, and there are some general duties that there should be provision, but the same specific duty doesn't exist. So, in Wales there's been a commitment, a promise and an expectation from Gypsy and Traveller and nomadic families that this provision will be made, and that's well known around the UK. In fact, it was a really positive piece of legislation to come in, which in part had been recommended by the committee on the rights of the child as a way of supporting children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds to live culturally, to be able to access education, health, and have secure bases to live their lives from. However, the promise has been disappointing in the sense that Gypsy and Traveller families feel very strongly, 'So, we've got this duty, is it worth the paper that it's written on?' Because we're not seeing the results of the implementation of that duty.

I see. Okay. Thanks very much, Trudy. Do any other witnesses want to add anything to what Trudy has said? Jasmine.

I just wanted to add some more specific clarity on some of the things that Trudy said there, with some examples of individual stories, whilst keeping them anonymous. We've got individuals that have been on the waiting list for a plot on sites for over 20 years. So, when they became adults and no longer wanted to live with their parents, and they got married, they've gone onto a waiting list and now their children are grown up, and are adults, and are on the waiting list, and their mother has still not got a plot. We've got over 20 years of being on a waiting list for a plot and no further progress, and now another generation again waiting on that waiting list. I think one of the things that really shows the situation is that very rarely does a pitch become available on a local authority site, but when it does, we suddenly see a huge increase in the work that we have, the number of phone calls coming into our offices from individuals who are effectively homeless, living on their friends' and families' plots in conditions that are overcrowded, who then want to enter the homelessness system officially and be in hostels because that's the only way that they will be able to lift themselves to the place where they'll be able to access that pitch that's becoming available. But, of course, there's a huge number of people who need and want to do this each time a pitch becomes available, and that could be every 18 months to two years. Sometimes it's been more than two years between pitches becoming available. So, I just wanted to give a little bit more context to that. 

09:10

Thank you very much for that, Jasmine. That's very useful for the committee to know. Could I just ask about the experience within Wales, what Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are telling you about their experiences within Wales in terms of one part of Wales to another? Is there a very considerable variation in terms of experience, would you say? If so, how does that play out across the country? Trudy.

I think there are very consistent experiences that we've just touched on here, in that there are, to our knowledge, very few areas, if any, where all the need is met. And, as we've said, in terms of transit, that need still hasn't been met. In terms of people's permanent residential need to live on sites, obviously, in some areas, we've got urban areas with maybe some quite high percentages of Gypsy and Traveller constituents living in those areas, but we've also got some rural areas, particularly Pembrokeshire and maybe more like Flintshire, where there are also very high numbers. And, in actual fact, the availability of land, for instance, is an issue, but it doesn't really seem to vary between different areas.

The reality is that the provision and the development of new sites is—. In our advocacy service, accommodation issues are our top issue that people come to us with, and that can be about needing a plot, needing a pitch, it can be about the quality and standard of the accommodation that's available, it can be about the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessment and the fact that there has been no feedback from local authorities. There isn't a huge difference, really. I think, obviously, in rural areas, we know that some small family sites maybe have more likelihood of getting passed, because land is a little bit more available than in urban areas, and we also know that, actually, over the last six or seven years, more pitches have been made by families getting planning permission than have ever been made by local authorities, and that's the same across Wales.

One of the things we were talking about was that a lot of people are saying, 'Well, there are caravan sites everywhere, for transit, why can't people live in those?' And we were looking at the high numbers of caravan sites, for example, in coastal areas. We know that our experience—and I know Martin might want to come in and say something here—is around the discrimination and the systemic racism, really, around access for Gypsy and Traveller families to caravan sites, both holiday ones and also residential ones. So, in our experience, the picture is fairly consistent across Wales. There aren't huge differences. There are some local authorities where some progress has been made, and some of those are more urban ones; and there are some where some small progress has been made and they're more rural ones. The issues are more about the political commitment and the political will to deliver those sites and being held accountable and implementing the duty properly, in my view. I think I'd probably pass on to Martin.

09:15

Just before Martin comes in, Trudy, are there then any local authorities in Wales that we might look to in terms of relatively good practice?

I know we're going to go on to talk about Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments and that whole process. One of the difficulties is that there's been no proper review; obviously, all those assessments are with the Minister at the moment, and then there'll be an outcome from that. I think there are some local authorities that have maybe quite quietly been able to get on with adding some additional pitches, a couple who have built new sites, but, at the same time, those local authorities have potentially also not supported families who are wanting to meet their own need through planning, for example. It's not all about local authority sites. So, there is some progress, but it doesn't necessarily meet the needs of all the families, and in some instances, there is some really quite worrying practice going on in relation to the support for families who are meeting their own need and trying to negotiate the planning system. And also, we've got, as I've said already, local authorities who maybe have built a site, but there is still no work being done to support travelling families, with no transit provision. So, I don't think there's any one local authority that we would identify that has, in the round, been able to or has committed to actually supporting the cultural accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers. 

Thanks. Just to go on from what Trudy said before, I'd agree that there's no one authority that has successfully done what the framework sets out to do. Trudy mentioned before in regard to holiday and tourism. We looked at Gwynedd, and there's a ratio of over 266 holiday caravan camps to one Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site. For me, as an Irish Traveller, when I see the amount of available sites that are there, but we would be refused entry on because of who we are—. It's widely known that GRT people wouldn't even entertain going to these sites because they know that they're going to get knocked back and refused. So, it's disheartening seeing that disparity between the priority of the tourism economy and a person's well-being and welfare and residential rights. 

Then, Trudy touched on the racism and institutional discrimination that's going on. In terms of planning, there are far too many examples of conflict of interest. There are far too many instances of discrimination, where councillors who flat out—. You know, I've delivered training to different political parties that are on these planning boards, and they've flat out told me to my face directly that they couldn't support GRT people in any campaigns, because they would lose their voters. The only thing that one person stated that they would do was to put a little notice in their newsletter to balance the narrative. These people have the say on whether a person's private site gets puts through, and it's really disparaging. 

You mentioned before, and you showed an interest in, why people would come to Wales. I was born and raised in London; my family lived in London. I was there until my late teens, and we came here because we were told by other members of the family how close to our cultural traditions Wales is and what it offers. We know Wales is an absolutely beautiful place and people would be mad not to want to live here, but, for me, moving to Wales allowed me to progress to get a PhD scholarship, because of the framework, the structure and support that was there in the interests I had. So, Wales is a really good place to live, but, right now, with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and everything coming into law, those opportunities that I had are not going to be present for future generations and children, because there are no transit sites so there's nowhere for people to stay without being criminalised and moved on and their homes taken off them, if the law is copied and pasted from England to Wales as is, and the provision of sites is at such a slow rate, where people identified in GTAAs numerous times are still not being provided with sites, they're going to have to do something about them; they might have to move or relocate somewhere else. It's a shame, because I've experienced what Wales has to offer in a really positive way, and it's a shame that that's going to be taken away.

09:20

I just wanted to add a quote from someone as part of some of the consultations we've done over the last couple of years—it just came to mind there, really—about the impact of the lack of available site provision. I just want to read it out:

'Culture is fading because we are getting forced to leave it behind. We can’t live our way of life. They can’t provide sites; they won’t put planning on private sites through so what do they want us to do. We can’t live on side of the roads anymore; they just want us in houses. The culture of Travelling is going.'

I just wanted to read that, really, because I think there's a historical context to this and a much wider context as well about the impact on everybody who has a nomadic travelling background—people who have lived in Wales for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, or more recently arrived. This is the impact of—. It's not just waiting lists and those kinds of things, it's actually the purpose of provision of culturally appropriate accommodation. Facilitating the nomadic way of life through transit sites is something that the Welsh Government had committed to in the way that Martin expressed, with the knowledge that that is important in itself, as well as that improving access to education, to housing, to health and all the things that Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities have really struggled to access for years. What's so disappointing is that we're not making the progress that we should be in Wales.

Okay. Thank you very much, Trudy. I think it is very useful for the committee to have in mind those traditions and the difficulties of maintaining them and the need for diversity in ways of life in Wales and respect and facilitation for those differences. So, I'm sure those questions are going to be central to the context for this work. Let me just bring in Mabon at this stage. Mabon.

Diolch. Dwi am ofyn cwestiwn yn Gymraeg, os oes gennych offer cyfieithu a bod pawb yn fy nghlywed i yn iawn. Dyna ni. Os caf i fynd yn ôl un cam, os gwelwch yn dda, Gadeirydd, i rywbeth ddaru gael ei ddweud ynghynt, y sôn am y rhestrau aros a bod yna rai pobl yn aros 20 mlynedd am blot a pitch. Oes gyda ni syniad o faint ydy'r rhestr aros? Faint o blotiau, faint o pitches sydd angen arnom ni yng Nghymru i gyfarch y galw?

Thank you. I'd like to ask a question in Welsh, if you can use the translation equipment and everybody can hear me. If I can go back one step, Chair, to something that was said earlier, there was mention there of waiting lists and that some people were waiting 20 years for a plot and a pitch. Do we have an idea how long that waiting list is? How many plots, how many pitches are required in Wales to meet the demand?

I'm really sorry, but I didn't hear all of the translation, Mabon, until right at the very end. I'm not sure if there's a technical hitch or not. Would you mind repeating the question for me? I've checked that it's turned on now.

Dyna ni, yn iawn. Meddwl oeddwn i ynghylch nifer y pitches a plotiau sydd angen arnom ni yng Nghymru. Faint yn brin ydyn ni ar hyn o bryd? Oes gyda ni syniad faint sydd angen yn ychwanegol arnom ni yng Nghymru i gyfarch y galw?

That's okay. I was thinking in terms of the number of pitches and plots that are required in Wales. How short are we currently? Do we have an idea of how many are needed in addition in Wales to meet the demand?

Okay. I'll just start this one off. I think this is the purpose of the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments that are the method for assessing need, as required under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, that this is a periodic review every five years, although there's been an extension due to COVID this time. So, the first assessments under the new housing Act, although there were previous assessments, were carried out in 2016-17, and then the most recent at the end of 2021. All 22 local authorities have to have their accommodation assessment reports with the Minister by February, so they're with the Minister now. 

The short answer is 'we don't know'. The number of over 100 that I referred to was from a much, much earlier assessment that was commissioned by the Welsh Government many, many years ago, looking at the provision and quality of, and the need for, sites in Wales. That was over 12 years ago, if not longer. So, we don't know. Anecdotally, Welsh Government have acknowledged at least two or three years ago that the need probably remained the same, because, obviously, the better the assessments are, the more need is found, and, of course, also the fact that there's an opportunity for people, as promised, to maybe return to live in more culturally appropriate ways also will slightly increase demand as well.

The reality is that, during the period since the first Gypsy/Traveller accommodation assessments were done, there's been, to our knowledge, certainly, no public review of—. There was no overall figure from the 2016-17 GTAAs that was publicly published. That was just at a local level, so, obviously, you could add up those sums. And what we would want to see is that the review that the Minister and her officials are undertaking now actually comes up with—. It may not be an exact number, and it wouldn't necessarily be that useful to be exact, but to actually measure the need properly and then hold local authorities and Welsh Government to account to actually then meet that need.

So, Mabon, the answer to your question is that it was 100, we've had extremely slow progress, families have grown, got bigger, it will still be significant, but there is no, at this moment, publicly available figure that we or anybody else could tell you, unless you ask each individual local authority. 

09:25

Okay. Diolch yn fawr. Just one further question from me before we move on to other committee members, and that is—we've touched on it already—on the situation in Wales compared to that across the border in England, and the experience of the communities themselves. From what you've said, Trudy, I think if families, communities, in England are thinking that things might be better in Wales—although, sadly, that hasn't been the actual experience when they've come here in terms of site provision—if there is that perception, I take it that, in terms of sites, things aren't any better in England. Is there much of a difference at all, and are there any parts of England where communities are saying that things are relatively better—again, perhaps, local authorities that we might look to for good practice? 

I'm not sure we have the answer to that. There are some local authorities where we know that there seems to have been some slightly better localised practice, and that's been very much characterised by locally politically led councils who have a commitment and work in partnership particularly with specific families in local areas and maybe have some more creative approaches via housing associations, for example. But it's very, very patchy, and actually the position of Gypsies and Travellers in England is exactly the same, but without a legislative framework that is supposed to deliver sites in the same way. I don't think—. I'm not aware of a local authority that we would point to and say, 'Well, they've got that exactly right.' You will be aware that you will see exactly the same stories of families waiting for years, families having to legally challenge planning decisions—and winning, regularly winning, when they do legally challenge local decisions around planning, for example. So, I'm not sure. There are a few places where visits and things have been undertaken, I know, by Welsh councils from time to time, to see how things are working in other areas. But I'm not picking up from our conversations with local authorities or our conversations with families that there is anywhere in England that has fantastic practice.

Interestingly, in Scotland, there was a call for, and I think some kind of commitment to, opening up traditional stopping places across Scotland—reopening them. Because what the committee may not be aware of is that one of the reasons why Gypsies and Travellers have no recourse other than to encamp on land that may not always be the best land to encamp on is that, traditionally, stopping places around Wales and the whole of the UK were part and parcel of our landscape—stopping places, common land—and, over the years, legislation and building practices mean that almost all those places have gone. So, interestingly, Scotland looked at actually mapping those traditional places and looking at making them accessible again. I'm not sure if they've done that, or whether they're in the process of doing that, but that's something that we thought was a really positive move, because it also addresses the reason—not only does it value the traditional travelling patterns and stopping places, but it also brings back into the fore the cultural and rich landscape of travelling life. Because it's not all about people wanting to live on big local authority sites; people don't really want to live like that, that's not how people lived traditionally, but that's been the—. That's been what's on offer. But that isn't actually how people want to live when they're travelling, or even when they're not travelling.

09:30

Okay, Trudy. Well, I'm sure the committee will be interested in perhaps getting in touch with those involved in Scotland in that policy to see where they are with it now and exactly what the detail is. Thank you very much. Assia, did you want to add anything before we move on?

Just to, I guess, amplify what Trudy and Martin have been saying, I think. In our own meetings, we've heard about community views and concerns of things not being done and people losing faith—and Wales could have really led the way in providing transit sites and residential sites for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers—and just feeling that the Welsh Government has failed them. And I think, yes, this is a huge turning point for us. We can't work towards an anti-racist Wales if we're not honouring the rights of Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, and that's something that I very much stand by. I think, in conversations over racism, Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are left out. We can't really move towards our goal, our collective goal, if we don't address these issues. So, yes, just agreeing with everything that they're saying, and just the community views and concerns that we heard in the cross-party group on race and equality. So, I've got some more opinions—well, not opinions, evidence—on that part, when it becomes appropriate during the meeting.

Okay. Diolch yn fawr, Assia. Thank you very much. Okay, we will move on then to Carolyn. Carolyn.

From what you've been saying, am I right in thinking that the need for provision is increasing now—you need more provision, it's growing all the time? If somebody could answer that.

Just as any families are. So, it's ongoing. The periodic review, under the accommodation assessments under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, is meant to take account of the needs of families. Like with any families, it doesn't stand still. And so I don't think there's particular evidence that there is more need than there was before; I think it maybe is better understood, but, obviously, it changes. The accommodation assessments require local authorities to look not just at the picture at that moment, but to look ahead as well, so that they take into account family growth, young people who may be forming their own households and families. That's the intention, so that it is a dynamic process. But unless in the period in between the assessments any need is met, then clearly it's pointless, because you're just stacking up need.

09:35

Okay. Does the current framework—the current legislative and policy framework—meet cultural needs and are there any gaps at the moment? So, we've talked about the fact that the planning needs aren't being met and the availability of sites, but the policy and framework, do you think—? What's actually in place there? Is the policy adequate or does it need reassessing?

If I just start us off: I think the current legislation, whilst it goes a long way, where local authorities are not being held to account, where they're not meeting the needs and meeting their duties as set out, I guess that's the biggest failure of the legislation at the moment. But I think that it does miss the focus on support for families and individuals that are looking to develop sites for themselves—private sites for their families' needs. Quite often, when we talk about GTAA and the legislation, we spend a lot of time talking about the local authority and the provision of local authority sites, but many of our clients in the community that we speak to are looking for more support in understanding the planning system, understanding where they start when it comes to purchasing appropriate land for development, because that is very challenging, and understanding those processes. And there's little support currently for families and individuals that are navigating that system. And many of the families that we work with will have spent tens of thousands of pounds over the years trying to get planning permission for a site. Hopefully, further along in this process, you're meeting with the community and you'll learn more about those experiences from individuals themselves. But there are people who have been working hard for over 10 years to establish a home for their family and, from their understanding, they have the means, they have the land, they have what they need, but that hasn't been possible. So, I think it's a failure of the legislation that there isn't enough focus on the planning side of the self-actualisation for individuals within the community to be able to establish sites for themselves as well. But I'm sure that Trudy and Martin have got more to say on that.

Yes, exactly, just to go on from what Jasmine said, in an ideal situation, like Trudy said—. The provided accommodation that's given by the council is just a big yard of concrete and it's really far and away from the relationship that we have with nature and wanting to be outdoors in a healthy environment, so, like the duties that are set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which highlights the need for safe areas for sites to be constructed. But because of the pressure of the wider community against site provision and the influence that that has on local councillors, and councillors and authorities themselves, authorised local and council sites, as we would call them, are developed on undesirable land next to motorways, next to waste-management systems.

The site I lived on had no safe passageway to any local services, any shops and stuff like that. We had to cross the A494. Back then it was a 70 mph dual carriageway with four lanes. We had to cross that as kids. And the only other way was under a bridge that would be flooded quite often. So, safety for us—. Well, in my lived experience, our safety, the rights of residents to live healthily, are being sacrificed for the interests of political people. Their interests are put first. I'm 36 and I've got chronic asthma because of living on that site for 10 years, I think it was, and I never had that when I lived in London, which is a densely populated place. New laws were brought in to reduce the speed limits to reduce air pollution, but still sites are created next to these places.

So, it's a shame, as Assia said there. Wales has the opportunity to lead in creating culturally appropriate sites, but I think right now, and as Jasmine alluded to, if the local councils and local authorities cannot implement the Welsh Government guidance and do it in an unbiased way, there will be let-downs and disappointments that carry on, and when the police Bill comes in, that will hurt people a lot more as well.

09:40

I just wanted to reiterate about doing things in an unbiased way. I think I was quite shocked when we were having a chat yesterday, as a team, when Jasmine was talking about how air pollution tests are taken. We were discussing Rover Way and how we all know that Rover Way is heavily congested at two very specific points, but air pollution tests were taken when there wasn't congestion, so it skews the reality, and I think that's the whole thing when we talk about institutionalised racism. It really is going down to even that level, and it's like 'Why?' Why are people skewing these results or taking tests when there isn't congestion? It doesn't make sense. So, I think it's about really teaching from—. It's a top-down approach and it just really emphasises and gives evidence about the lack of care, I think. Yes, the lack of care and discrimination within practices.

I think everything's been covered in the other questions regarding policy and frameworks, so if you want to move on to the next ones, that's fine.

Ie. Roeddwn i am ofyn cwestiwn cyntaf ynghylch y niferoedd o safleoedd, ond rydyn ni wedi mynd dros hynny. Ond yn benodol, os caf i feddwl ychydig y tu hwnt i anghenion y safle yn unig, o ran anghenion y bobl fydd yn byw yna, ydy'r safleoedd sydd gennym ni yn darparu ar gyfer anghenion addysg ac iechyd y bobl sydd yn mynd i fyw dros dro ar y safleoedd yna? Ydyn ni hefyd yn clymu i mewn yr anghenion hynny wrth ein bod ni'n cynllunio safleoedd ar gyfer Roma, Sipsiwn a Theithwyr?

Yes. I wanted to ask a first question regarding the number of sites, but we have gone over that. Specifically, if I could ask a little more beyond the provision of sites only, in terms of the needs of the people who live there, do the sites that are available provide for the education and health needs of the people who are going to live there temporarily, on those sites? Do we also tie in those needs as we plan these sites for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers?

One of the points that I had noted down to make this morning was about site location and this pulls in a little bit on the consultation process, but it is very common for sites to be placed in areas that are on the outskirts of the community, often in industrial areas, where the air quality and the proximity to the wider community, schools, shops and facilities is not adequate. Many sites don't have safe walking spaces, as Martin has pointed out from his own experience. Children, the elderly, the vulnerable are unable to leave the site without someone who can drive, so they end up very isolated, unable to engage with the wider community.

On the health implications of site location, there's a study going on right now and a report expected in the summer on this across the UK, but we know that health in the community is very poor. Life expectancy is much lower in the Gypsy and Traveller community than it is in the wider community. Health and education outcomes in the Gypsy and Traveller community definitely demonstrate the fact that there is something very serious going on, that it can continue.

And the site location, where I wanted to bring it into the consultation process, I guess that we'll cover that shortly, but Gypsies and Travellers are very rarely involved early on in the planning of sites and site locations. By the time Gypsies and Travellers are able to have any input on the sites that are being developed for them, it's once the site's location has been identified and the site plans have already been developed, so it's almost like a tick-box exercise, rather than something that is going to be helpful and ensure that the health, social and welfare needs of Gypsies and Travellers are met. But I'm sure that Trudy and Martin have got something to add on this as well.

09:45

Yes. In terms of health, and the health provision that can be found on sites, there really isn't any, and that goes for young people and adults. So, for young people there's nowhere to play, there are no parks, there are no areas for them to be safe. Their mental health needs are not really addressed in that manner. In terms of older people, like Jasmine said, there's no access for them to get out, there's no opportunity for them to socialise except for their families, or if they're on a local encampment, there might be a lot of strangers and they might keep to themselves.

We know that mental health issues in the GRT community are drastically high and leading to suicide rates that are—. Women are seven times more likely to commit suicide than the general population and men are six times, and suicide is the biggest killer of GRT people in general. That is affected by the discrimination that we face in all areas, and even into the place that we live. So, imagine just coming home from school, and some of the stories that we had a long time ago when there were people in north Wales, they were waiting for site planning to go through, and they saw elected members join in protest against the site that they wanted to live on. How does that help a child's mental health as well as older people's mental health? It's quite sad.

Wales, in my opinion, leads with the policy and with the diversity and with equality and the emphasis on culture and tradition, but at a local level, it feels like the memo's been missed. I don't want to slander it, but it feels like that local level hasn't caught up yet, and it's rotting the structure of what Welsh Government want to do, and until that's addressed, until that accountability is taken seriously, none of this will improve.

And we can go to the child education services as well, and in north Wales, where I live, there is hardly any—. There are maybe one, two staff members that have to deal with one whole county or one authority. And they do an amazing job, but it isn't feasible for that person to do it on their own. The area I live, the funding was stripped to the point where was none. So, the opportunities that I got, and the interest in education that was planted into my head when people visited me on the site, that's gone. How are you going to promote education and talk about prosperity when the basic equality of a child's education isn't provided to them? Child's health, a space to be safe, a space to play, a space to be who they are and practise the tradition and culture they come from—and these are just UNCRC articles—aren't being provided. So, yes, I'll pass on. Thank you.

09:50

Rydych chi wedi cyffwrdd ambell i dro yn y drafodaeth yma â'r ffaith bod darpariaeth awdurdodau lleol yn annigonol a'r ffaith bod yna gyndynrwydd weithiau i ddatblygu safleoedd. Fedrwch chi ymhelaethu ychydig ar pam rydych chi'n meddwl bod awdurdodau lleol yn gyndyn i ddatblygu safleoedd ar gyfer Teithwyr, Roma a Sipsiwn?

You've touched a number of times in this discussion on the fact that the provision of local authorities is insufficient and the fact that there is a reluctance sometimes to develop sites. Can you just tell us a little bit more about why you think local authorities are reluctant develop sites for Traveller, Roma and Gypsy people?

Thank you. It links in a bit with Carolyn's previous question about the extent to which the kind of legislative framework and the policy framework is really delivering what it needs to deliver. I think that there is a real issue about the fact that we have a clear duty and, under that, we have some clear statutory guidance around how the assessment should be carried out and how the duty should be met. But, as Martin clearly said, it's missing what is needed, because what happens is that local authorities—. This is meant to be an ongoing process, like this periodic review, the engagement with Gypsies and Travellers, understanding local need, working with people to find sites, working with people to find sites that will be socially rented, and working to help people find sites that they might be able to lease or own themselves, because, obviously, there are different needs within the community, but what we see is that local authorities—many local authorities—only pay attention to this at the point at which they are expected to put in a report with an assessment. So, I wouldn't so much say there's a reluctance as there's a lack of understanding and commitment, or care, about using this process to actually deliver tangible benefits for Gypsy and Traveller communities. And I think that, whilst it's really important to have robust guidance that local authorities have to follow, what we're seeing is that people are following that but missing out the really core elements that actually make it successful, and therefore it fails. We have got local authorities who've spoken to community members, they've done interviews and things, and then you have this kind of formula that's done and it's like, 'Oh, there's one local authority that says one pitch between now and 2034. They reckon there's a need for one additional pitch and zero transit pitches'. That just doesn't make sense. This is a local authority that has a lot of people travelling through it, and it has a small but significant group of different Gypsy and Traveller families living there. It just doesn't make sense. So, I think what there are is there are lots of barriers.

One of the difficulties of this legislative and policy guidance process is that, unlike any other housing for ordinary citizens, it places very publicly the needs of Gypsy and Traveller families—really publicly. It requires all these different assessments that have to go through all these political processes. It immediately triggers hostile opposition and campaigning from other local people against any kind of Gypsy or Traveller sites. For example, we saw one in the last couple of years. We're talking about one family—they're a local family, they've been there generations, they're Welsh speaking, they are part and parcel of the community; they're not people who've just kind of arrived from somewhere else last year. They have a long-established need, and the campaign against the site for that family, who did not identify themselves because of fear for them and their children, even though they're local people and well-known—. The opposition was organised with legal input, tactics shared with other opposition groups across England and other places that campaign against Gypsy and Traveller sites. And the pressure, then, on that family to have any faith and to feel safe in that process—. The pressure, then, on elected members is huge. You know, Martin's already touched on the fact that people have said to him quite openly, 'We can't be seen to support Gypsy and Traveller sites'. So, officers, sometimes very skilled and well-intentioned officers, are working hard in some instances to go through this process, to deliver sites, to identify sites, to bring elected members with them and to deliver for what might actually be one family who needs four pitches—you know, we're not talking about a great, big new housing development.

And this process is what is failing to deliver, really, for local authorities. So, the process allows them—. The other thing about the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments is that, of the reports we've seen of this second round, the majority of them have not used that opportunity to review and reflect whether they've met the previous need. So, what they've done is almost started from ground zero and just said, 'Well, here we are again. This is what our need is now' and hand it over to the Minister as to whether or not they'll sign this off as a properly done report. But the barriers are this lack of engagement with Gypsies and Travellers and lack of understanding about what's needed, but, really, driven by the inability of the democratic process to deliver these sites because of the long-held prejudice against Gypsies and Travellers and lack of understanding of who Gypsy and Traveller families are. And the reluctance is accepted because there's been no action taken by Welsh Government on any of the local authorities that have failed to meet any need in the last seven years, even when those local authorities have voted against their own proposals, for example, as happened in one local authority. I'm not an expert on planning law, but, potentially, that could've been called in by the Minister to look at that. It wasn't. So, it doesn't really matter whether local authorities are reluctant or not. Some local authorities are trying their best and struggling and not getting past the organised opposition and prejudice that Gypsy and Traveller families have to deal with every day. And some are not really doing anything, but there's no consequence to that, and that's what families say to us, 'What's the point of this law, because nothing happens as a result of it?' 

09:55

Thank you. Martin might be able to explain this example in a bit more detail than me, but, last year, we heard of a transit site that was planned in Wrexham and there was a campaign that was led by a caravan site owner who held a plot down the road from this planned site. The caravan site was for profitable use as a holiday let, and the business owner ended up winning their campaign. So, there's a conflict between businesses and sites. I don't know if Martin wants to talk a bit more about that, but that's another reason as well.

Yes, that story is really significant, because the person who owned that holiday camp was a councillor. So, there was a massive conflict of interest there. They said that the site would spoil the countryside, and it was down the road from his site. And maybe it's just my lack of trust in elected members recently when it comes to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller issues, but the fact that he could have one and that family couldn't was really questionable, and the fact that wasn't questioned—. The actual council said that the plans should have been put through, but they were still rejected at council level. And, for me, the fact that that wasn't looked at in more detail shows that families are being let down at their local level by their councillors, by people who don't have the will to have the conversations with the community and to want to tackle the prejudice that they've been voting for. I voted for councillors and MPs who have completely done a 360 degree turn on their support for GRT people, and that is the biggest kick in the teeth, because I implore my family and other people to vote to have their voices heard, and when they do, that's taken away from them and reneged on in a drastic way that it feels like a really big—. You know, it's an injustice, really. More and more GRT people are voting because of the political climate we're in, and then, you know, we see the people who we vote for not want to uphold equality, even though that's their obligation under the Welsh ombudsman. You can look at them, and that states that they have a duty to do that, and they're not doing that. They don't want to, and there's no will because of their own political interests and individual interests. So, yes, that story is quite disheartening, but it's not unique.

For me to drive down a street through a coastal town, such as in Gwynedd, I'll see, on both sides of the road, picturesque sites and stuff, and about 100 caravans in a stretch of, what, a couple of miles, and not one of them belong to people who lived on those sites hundreds of years ago, whose way of life, who are desperate for a nice place like that—just a small, little place for their family. My family, they've applied to move to a site in England because they know that the waiting time and the lack of sites means that they're not going to be able to move with their family any time soon. They've seen a lot of planning applications be shut down, through discrimination more than anything, so they've decided to apply to live in a site in England. So, that means I'm going to lose my family, so my parents can be with my grandparents to look after them as they get into old age, which is quite sad, because we came to Wales, we love Wales, and it's forced out of their hands now.

10:00

Os caf i, un cwestiwn terfynol gen i, felly. Mae'n reit glir o'ch tystiolaeth chi eich bod chi'n meddwl bod yna fframwaith a ddylai fod yn effeithiol ond mai'r deliferi ydy'r broblem. Ond, y tu hwnt i hynny, ydych chi'n meddwl bod yna fwy y medrai Llywodraeth Cymru ei gwneud? A dŷn ni'n gwybod bod Llywodraeth Cymru yn rhoi grant blynyddol i ddatblygu safleoedd a chynnal safleoedd. Ai mwy o bres sydd ei angen ar gyfer hyn? Oes angen mwy o gymorth ar awdurdodau lleol gan Lywodraeth Cymru er mwyn datblygu safleoedd? Beth yn ychwanegol i'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei wneud y dylai Llywodraeth Cymru ei wneud i helpu datblygu'r safleoedd yma?

One final question from me. It's quite clear from your evidence that you think there is a framework that should be effective, but the delivery is the problem. But, beyond that, do you think there is more that the Welsh Government could do? We know that Welsh Government provides an annual grant to develop and maintain sites. Is more funding required and needed for this? Is there a need for more support for local authorities from Welsh Government in order to develop local sites? What in addition can be done, and what should Welsh Government do to develop these sites?

Thank you for the question, Mabon. Diolch. Yes, I mean you're right—we think it's important and it's quite clearly needed, that the legislation is there, and it is about the delivery, but it's also about the accountability and the consequences for local authorities if they don't deliver. But the whole process has also become a bit of a tick-box exercise. So, I think what really needs to happen is a real shift in the way that local authorities engage with Gypsy and Traveller communities about their accommodation needs. I think, if it will be additionally asked—. There was a question among the questions we were sent about the assessments and the engagement, and there needs to be—. This is a process, it's not a five-yearly report that gets written. So, there has to be a shift in the way that local authorities talk to, have discussions and engage with, get to know and build relationships with Gypsy and Traveller committees locally, before, during and to follow up the assessments, by continuing to talk to people about how to meet that need, and to do that in a partnership way. That rarely happens, if at all, in any of the local authorities that we're aware of.

You've talked about the grant, so there is this capital sites grant, which is to build new sites that could be residential sites or could be transit sites, and it is also to refurbish. Maintenance doesn't come under that grant, as such; that will come from the local funds through the rents gathered. One of the key points is that Gypsy and Traveller accommodation on sites isn't funded in the same way or managed or supported in the same way as other social housing. There are real gaps there, and we'd like that to be looked at. That also means that when there are real issues around the quality of housing, there is no inspection process in the way that there would be for social housing or any other kind of specialist housing. It's really down to us supporting residents to make complaints to a residential property tribunal or to the local authority about everything, from minor repairs to some of these huge issues around being built next to motorways, needing better air quality, safe routes to school, those sorts of things. So, some way of looking at giving Gypsy and Traveller accommodation some parity and equality with the standards that are expected of any citizen's accommodation is really important.

In terms of the grant, that is only available at the moment to local authorities. We know that in the race equality action plan and in that process Welsh Government did listen to some very strong feedback from community members about the fact that we can see that local authorities themselves aren't delivering what's needed and are there more creative ways of using that sites grant to support families to directly meet their own need, or potentially to look at different ways of using land. Because, obviously, only some people will have enough money to buy some land, so that's an expensive business. Like any other community, some people can afford to buy their own house, and some people can't, but there are other schemes run by housing associations and so forth for bricks and mortar. But, actually, can we we look at using that grant more successfully as grants or loans or helping lease land direct to families, almost taking local authorities out of it? They might provide some of the support and the assistance. We know that that's likely to be looked at, and we think that's important, because we know the capital sites grant has been underspent. Actually, we're not clear—I know it was guaranteed up until 2021, but I haven't had any confirmation, but I haven't requested it either—what amount of money is now going to be made available. So, I think we'd want clarity from Welsh Government about what's going to be made available and a real commitment to looking at different ways of using that, and not just in the hands of local authorities, who are, obviously, not always best placed, and some are not delivering sites at all.

Just going back to Carolyn's question about the framework as well, there are other pieces of guidance that are woefully out of date. They were positive at the time, but they really need updating. So, there is the managing sites guidance, there's also the designing Gypsy and Traveller sites guidance and there's also the managing unauthorised encampments guidance, which desperately needs updating now the police Bill has come in. These are pieces of guidance that have been in the 'Enabling Gypsies, Roma and Travellers' plan for years that say that they're going to be updated. Clearly, COVID has got in the way in some parts, but there's a real need for a focus on updating in partnership with Gypsies and Travellers these pieces of guidance that local authorities refer to, but are actually woefully out of date and not supporting the delivery of real sites.

10:10

Thank you very much, Trudy. We'd better move on. Sam, we've covered quite a lot of the ground, I think, you're probably interested in. Is there anything you'd like to ask?

Yes, a couple of bits, if I may, Chair. Good morning, everybody, and thank you for your time and evidence with us so far. It's been really appreciated. Just coming back to what seems to be a dissatisfaction with the role of local authorities in provision of sites and support of sites, I'm just wondering whether you consider local authorities as the organisations or the layers best placed to consider decisions around Gypsy and Traveller sites. Because, in Wales, there has been a move, at a legislative level, to introduce corporate joint committees, for example, which are at a regional level. Within those corporate joint committees, they'll include strategic planning decisions. One of my concerns is perhaps the arbitrary boundaries that local authorities create, which perhaps aren't always appropriate for the needs of Gypsy and Traveller communities moving through an area. I'm just wondering—sorry, I'm rambling on a bit—whether you consider local authorities as the level best placed to make decisions and have thinking behind this.  

Thank you, Sam, for the question. I think it's important to differentiate between residential need and transit need here. In terms of residential need, Gypsy and Traveller families are citizens of Wales, live all across of Wales, have done for hundreds of years, and have local housing need that, in my view, certainly needs to be assessed and understood by local authorities. There may be other methods of delivering that through different grants, through housing associations, and through supporting people to better use the planning system. I'm not sure who else would provide socially rented, quality accommodation to any citizens, and I think it's important that there's a parity and an equality of standard of accommodation that's available, even though what it looks like might be different from your conventional bricks and mortar, for example.

In terms of transit provision, that's a bit different, because I think what you're referring to there, Sam, is that, clearly, Gypsies and Travellers of nomadic traditions travel. Boundaries change over the years, people return to places that their families and their grandparents and their great-grandparent travelled, work patterns—all those kinds of things. They go across, particularly in north Wales, but also in south Wales and other areas. You can run through a number of different local authorities just in your working pattern or on a journey to work in England and back into Wales, for example.

I think the bottom line is that there's supposed to have been a regional approach on transit sites. It was agreed with Welsh Government that that made sense. The reality is that's delivered absolutely zero. There has been no progress at all on that. No local authorities have got together to successfully map, speak to Gypsies and Travellers, and plan transit sites. So, in a sense, of course it makes sense to have that regional approach rather than specific provision or planning for provision within individual local authorities. But the issue is it doesn't really matter where you place responsibility, it's not happening. If it's not at local authority level, then people are going, 'Oh well, the next county haven't done anything yet, so we don't need to do anything yet.' And that's what's been happening. There is still no progress on transit. And, actually, in the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments that we have seen before they've gone to the Minister—and that's only a few, because many of them aren't publicly available—it's quite clear that local authorities are saying, 'Well, really, we don't really need a transit site.' And on a regional basis, you can see they're like dominoes. There are going to be no transit sites at all.

So, I appreciate the question about whether or not local authorities are the right people, but I don't think that is the reason why this is failing. A regional approach has supposed to have been taken over the last seven years and before that, before the housing Act came in, and it has resulted in zero progress.

10:15

What I wanted to say was similar to Trudy. Where we are aware of regional groups that are looking at transit needs, the first problem is that they operate in isolation. The key stakeholders—the Gypsy and Traveller community, the travelling community, the organisations that work with those communities—are not part of those meetings and those discussions. And then, whilst the current legislation and the guidance does set out a recommendation for a regional approach, we haven't seen that progress to anything. I don't know whether there are additional barriers there with which local authority is going to take the lead in that region, because the site has to go somewhere. Agreeing that may be the hold-up, but what we're not seeing is any progress in that way, and we're certainly not seeing any involvement with the people that would use that. So, any ideas that may be bouncing around are unlikely to be an appropriate solution anyway. I think Martin had his hand up, Chair.

In terms of a regional board to take on the decision-making scenarios, like Trudy said, they do exist, but as long as they're politically tied, nothing will be done. If there is a feeling that people could lose out or people will be facing a backlash from those decisions, you know, it would be really difficult to get those decisions made without bias. There's also something that Jasmine brought up yesterday, which just reminded me there—we don't have the structure or we don’t have the people in place that we could look at the monopoly of site rentals, caravan rentals. Right now, there's only one company that people can hire caravans from, which drastically increases the prices of the rent, because you have to pay double rent—you have to pay for the land and you have to pay for the static caravan. There's a monopoly on that. We don't feel like there's a structure in place where we can get that challenged or reviewed. Maybe the committee or the board that you mentioned, Sam, could take that on and provide a cheaper option, especially in the cost-of-living crisis era that we're in now. Because economically, people on sites are not far off the poverty line, and as prices go up and stuff like that, they're going to have to pay higher rents, and they're paying double the rent. So, if there are committees like that and boards like that that could address those situations without bias, it would be good. But as Trudy said, they do exist, and right now they aren't as succesful as we'd like them to be.

Can I just have one really short question, just to help me out a little bit? I'm happy to accept that I'm just being a bit thick with this here, but in my mind one of the advantages and ideas around creating authorised sites is to reduce unauthorised sites, and some of the challenges and stigma attached with unauthorised sites. We have seen in the last 10 years a doubling of the number of authorised sites in Wales, but the number of unauthorised sites remains broadly the same. I'm just wondering what I'm missing there in terms of that doubling of authorised sites and availability of spaces for Gypsies and Travellers to be at, whilst the unauthorised sites are remaining broadly the same. Am I missing the point there in terms of there shouldn't be a divergence, or what?

I think this is one of the areas where the review by the Welsh Government of what actually is going on is really important, and that's been absent, really. So, we're not statisticians, we don't have access to all of the data and all the rest of it. But what we do know is that more pitches have been provided and more sites, if you like, have been provided through planning permission, through the planning process, by Gypsies and Travellers themselves. So, Sam, that would account hugely for the number of unauthorised sites that there originally were, which are now authorised. So, there hasn't been a huge increase in the number of pitches in Wales, what there's been a change in is those that have moved from being informal, without permission, and have over time received planning permission. But the level of unauthorised—. So, with no transit provision, you are still going to have every encampment that occurs on a piece of common ground, in a lay-by, on a school playing field, on an industrial estate. With no transit provision, that is going to remain the same, because—. That is an unauthorised encampment, without permission to be there, because there are no transit sites. 

Still, the majority of sites owned by Gypsies and Travellers are authorised, not unauthorised, and those that are unauthorised are almost all people who have been well settled into the community and have been going through a planning process to get their status regularised. So, what we don't have are huge numbers of big encampments with people that are unauthorised. They tend to be small, they tend to be seasonal, and they tend to be specifically some groups of families in specific local authorities who have been waiting for more than 20 years for a site in that council area and have not been provided with it. So, I think it has been a gap that there hasn't been a decent review, really, of the need and the met need, the assessed need and the current need. And obviously that's part of what the Minister will need to be doing now. I don't know if that answers your question at all, but there are lots of different things going on here, as well as the fact that families and communities grow and change over years, and so there will be an increased need when that need hasn't been met in the previous years. 

10:20

I just wanted to add that our organisation works quite closely with unauthorised encampments that come through the area, and in our experience, very few of those would consider themselves homeless or be looking to make a permanent application to stay in the area. They're normally passing through for work, for family engagements—weddings, funerals—they're there for health appointments. There are numerous reasons. But they're normally passing through and they're normally the same families that we see year on year. In the last couple of years, we've actually seen a slight dip in the number of encampments because of COVID. So, fewer families travelling. So, this summer, we would expect to see the numbers go back to the normal levels. But regardless of the permanent provision in Wales, it would be unlikely for us to see a drop in the number of transit sites required to facilitate those families that are nomadic at different times of the year or for different reasons. So, I don't know if that clarifies it a little bit. 

Yes, okay. Thank you, Trudy. Thank you, Jasmine. I think we've dealt with consultation and engagement, Alun, quite extensively in as much as this session allows. Is there anything, Alun, that you wanted to ask in particular that hasn't been covered as yet?

I was just wondering—. I'm grateful to the witnesses for their time and their evidence this morning. In the last nearly hour and a half, I can't think of anything positive you've said about the experience of people living in these communities, and I was wondering if there is anything positive in your experience or knowledge that you would like to share with the committee.

10:25

Me coming to Wales and managing to get the support and structure I needed and the network I had, which led me to get a PhD scholarship, was a massive positive for living in Wales. 

Sorry, I don't mean your own personal experience, I mean the experience of the community. It wasn't a personal question. It was about policy, structures, work.

Well, in terms of a general overview, then it's not very positive, to be blunt.

That's fine, I'd prefer you to tell—. I'm looking for the truth, rather than some sugar-coating.

Yes, well, you know, it's a sunny day, I wasn't trying to hurt people's feelings or moods, but, as a general overview, the mood towards the structure and the policy and the—I'm going to call them all barriers, because for us they're all barriers, to get planning permission in or to get homes, to get safe access to education, health and stuff like that. In every area of that, we're all facing those barriers. Unfortunately, there aren't many positives to bring and to talk about, which is unfortunate. Sorry about that, Alun. 

That's fine, Martin. We've got little time left, I'm afraid, but I think Trudy wanted to come in, and Jasmine. Trudy.

Just briefly. I'm not from the Gypsy and Traveller community, but I have the good fortune to have been working with families and young people for the last 15 years or so. The reality is that these families are incredible families, massively resilient, massively resourceful—really rich, strong, caring communities. There has been progress in education, for example, and people continue to work hard, care about their families and do everything that they can do, like any other groups of people, to live a good life. But backing on from what Martin's saying there, the reality is that this has been about the provision of sites and about the kind of duty, and it has been—it is deeply disappointing and people feel let down. They feel they've got no faith in the process. A lot of people refused to even participate in the process this time.

And this police Bill, which we've not had time to touch on, what this has done is put Gypsy and Traveller people, particularly travelling Gypsies and Travellers, nomadic people, in a position where—. They should have been able to have better support for the nomadic way of life in Wales, and they haven't got it. So, that means that—. People know, when this Bill comes in, 'That's our travelling lifestyle gone.' The quote I read out earlier: 'We haven't got enough sites, there are no transit sites, and now we're going to be criminalised if we stop on land without permission.' Because the police Bill will make trespass a crime rather than a civil offence, and yet Gypsy and Traveller families travelling within or through Wales will have no other option than to encamp on land that doesn't belong to them. People just see that as a further nail in the coffin of the lack of care and respect for the Gypsy and Traveller nomadic, hundreds-of-years-old traditions.

But people are resilient and people are wanting to challenge this in lots of different ways, and you'll be meeting some of those people when you go out and meet with families. But it is very hard, Alun, to actually—. There are loads of positive things to say from my experience about Gypsy and Traveller communities, of course, but what should be expected and what could have been delivered, and coupled with the police Bill at this moment, is seen by everyone, whether you live on a site or travel or not, everyone who's of Gypsy and Traveller heritage, as nothing short of a cultural attack.

Okay, thank you, Trudy. We will come on briefly to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 very shortly now. But before we do, I think Jasmine wanted to come in as well. Jasmine.

I just wanted to respond to Alun's request, if there was anything positive. I think one of the things that is positive is the reputation the Welsh Government has in at least trying to instil legislation and policies that are positive. I think that's how it's seen wider in the UK, when we speak to counterparts in England, that's how they see Wales, and obviously, Wales refusing to consent to Part 4 of the police Bill, whilst symbolic in nature, was definitely a great win and the community were very pleased to see that, and it was reassuring to them that Welsh Government wouldn't consent to something like that. Yes, that's all.

10:30

Thanks. I know we're short on time, but Trudy talked about the police Bill and we know that's coming in. I think it'd be really, really important and good practice for Welsh Government to make sure that as many GRT people know that that policy is in in order to stop and prevent people from unknowingly becoming victims of this policy, whether it be a big campaign in regard to providing that information. I think it's really important that people know what this policy entails, how it affects their lives and what they can face if the police exercise these new powers on them. So, yes, I think that good practice from yourselves would be to inform as many people as possible that this is in.

Thank you very much, Martin. We've got a few minutes left we can use on this legislation, so, Joel.

Thank you, Chair. A lot of it has already been mentioned—

—about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, but I just want to touch on something that Martin mentioned there about making sure that the Traveller community knows that this is coming through. And I just wanted to ask, then, what sort of interaction has there been already from, say, the Welsh Government, the police and local authorities with the Traveller communities about this Act coming through? Thank you.

Thanks for the question, Joel. Yes, that was an interesting one. When we were looking at prepping for this session, we were like, 'Hm, okay.' So, we—the four of us here today—are all part of a loose coalition that came together 18 months ago, specifically to look at how we could raise awareness of the impact of the police Bill with Gypsy and Traveller communities and with others in Wales, and how we might be able to seek to, if we couldn't challenge it or if it couldn't be challenged legally or through the political process—how we could work with local authorities, Gypsy and Traveller communities and the police to mitigate the impact of the Bill.

The reality is, to my knowledge, other than those of us here and in our small, loose coalition, which is a number of activists and two or three of us who run advocacy services and some of our allies, there is as yet no—. There's been no communication or work directly from either Welsh Government or local authorities or the police to engage directly with Gypsy and Traveller communities. We've been asking for that. We've met with police chiefs and police and crime commissioners to ask for urgent meetings and regional arrangements to support Gypsy and Traveller nomadic communities at this time. We understand, obviously, the police Bill is now in. This criminalises trespass. It looks like—. We've heard there's an enforcement date up towards the end of June. 

Interestingly in Powys, for example—and I name the local authority only because it'll be clear why—obviously the Royal Welsh Show happens every year, except for the two years of COVID. Powys had an innovative piece of work where they set up, 13 years ago, a temporary Gypsy and Traveller site, because the Royal Welsh is a traditional Gypsy and Traveller fair/show that is visited every year by many, many people from, not just across Wales, but all across the UK as well. And so there's been a specific temporary stopping site with permission, with facilities, which people pay for—it's not a particularly cheap rate. That's been in place for 13 years and has been seen as—. It's the only example in Wales like that. Two years ago, we've just discovered the funding has been withdrawn for that and that is now not going to be happening. So, for example, in July, when Gypsies and Travellers come from all over the UK to visit the Royal Welsh, where they would traditionally pulled on and paid a fee to stay on this Gypsy/Traveller temporary site, that's no longer going to be there. So, where are people going to go? It's highly unlikely that they'll be allowed into the ordinary campsites. People are likely to still need to pull onto pieces of land. Their intent will be to reside there for a few days, which is what the police Bill says, and they don't have permission. Instead of that being a civil offence, that will be a criminal offence. We did have something in place there from that local authority. That's now gone. So, this is the kind of impact of the police Bill, but, actually, that local authority—. We discovered this by mistake, really, through a local journalist reporting it in a newspaper. The actual decision was taken two years ago. That's not been communicated to the Gypsy and Traveller people who go to the Royal Welsh. It's not been communicated to any of those of us who might be in touch with people, and, to my knowledge, it still hasn't. So, that's like a really clear example where some really obvious communication needs to happen and it hasn't done, but, in terms of what's about to happen, fundamentally, as far as I'm aware, at the moment it's only our loose group of coalition who are actively pushing for this communication to happen. So, yes. I don't know if that answers your question, but so far there hasn't been any, and I think we'd also point out that there's still a huge amount of lack of awareness amongst local authorities and the police and also amongst Gypsies and Travellers, but less so, about the fact that this Bill is coming in. Most of the Gypsy/Traveller assessment reports we've seen don't even mention the police Bill, even in the context of talking about the need for transit sites. So, we think there's a huge piece of work to be done urgently to support Gypsy and Traveller communities once this police Bill is in, or once it's enforced, which is soon.

10:35

Very briefly, if we've got time, I just wanted to mention a testimony from somebody called Leanne in our cross-party group on race and equality meeting, in reference to what Trudy was just talking about, about moving caravans and things, in relation to the Bill. She was saying an advanced driving licence is needed, a towing licence, for long caravans, and young men do not have these licences, so they need an older person with these licences to drive the caravans, and the Bill states that people will be penalised if they can't or they won't move. So, that's just another impact. And just to finish what Leanne says, she doesn't see any other ethnicity fighting for their heritage as much as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Thank you, Chair. I know the impact has already been mentioned by Trudy, and I just wanted to touch upon a different question, if I may. It was mentioned at the start, about the positive perception that the GRT community has of Wales compared to England, and then it was also mentioned then by Jasmine, then, about the rhetoric coming out of the Welsh Government is more positive, maybe, than that coming out of the UK Government. But what I'm sensing, then, and it's something I've sensed when I meet with other charity groups, is that there are always a lot of warm words and platitudes, but then there's no action, then, that's backing that up, and I was just wondering, then, if that's something that you experience and sense, then, sort of thing.

Yes, I think Martin had his hand up before me.

Yes, absolutely. I don't want to call it tokenism, because Welsh Government are trying. We see the policies out there; they see—. Well, I've been in loads of consultation meetings with Welsh Government, alongside Trudy and Jasmine and loads of activists and organisations, and I've seen the meaningful effort that Welsh Government and the staff have put in, but unfortunately it's being let down by the local levels. Welsh Government can put in an ideal situation and create the most beautiful place in the world—which Wales is, in my opinion—but if that is not being taken on board and if that's not being practised upon and that message is not being relayed and taken in and that practice is not applied to all councils and all levels of the government from grass-roots upwards, then we can't achieve that. So, it's like you said; it's warm words. We see what Welsh Government are trying to do, but, unfortunately, in my personal experience, when we get to the people that we liaise with to get to that place, it's not as easy as that and, most of the time, we're let down.

10:40

Okay. Thank you very much, Martin. Anybody want to add to what Martin said, or is there general agreement on that?

Yes, I think general agreement, really. The reality is that, yes, it is common that there's this big implementation gap. There's strong, principled legislation, policy and guidance and then there's a kind of expectation that that will just kind of magically happen. But I think that our concerns are that, after seven years of the housing Act, along with the historical background of failure, this is also an issue—. It's about the accountability, it's about the monitoring, it's about Welsh Government showing that it matters that these things haven't happened, and it's about the fact that we know that there are housing difficulties everywhere for people—we know that; we know it's not just Gypsies and Travellers—but, actually, there is so little political will and political advocacy and championing of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs and other issues, that—. It's being swept under the carpet, and, actually, some of the things that have gone on locally and regionally would not be acceptable if that was about any other group, or any other group of citizens or any other ethnic minority. So, I think there's—. But Gypsies and Travellers also are—. They'll say, 'Trudy, we know you tell us there's a law, but we don't see it working for us, and that's no news to us.' And that is what is so—. The injustice here really is that, yes, the warm words are there—more than warm words; the really strong legislation is there, actually, but it's not being used, and why not?

Okay. Well, thank you very much, Trudy, Martin, Jasmine and Assia for giving evidence to committee today. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way, but thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr.

Thank you. Diolch yn fawr.

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Okay, the next item we have before us, then, is item 3, and that's a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Is committee content so to do? I see that it is. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much. We will move into private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:43.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:43.