Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai

Local Government and Housing Committee

09/06/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Carolyn Thomas MS Cadeirydd dros dro
Temporary Chair
Jayne Bryant 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

Allison Hulmes Cyfarwyddwr Cenedlaethol, British Association of Social Workers Cymru
National Director, British Association of Social Workers Cymru
Carl Foulkes Prif Gwnstabl, Heddlu Gogledd Cymru
Chief Constable, North Wales Police
Dafydd Llywelyn Comisiynydd Heddlu a Throseddu Dyfed-Powys
Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys
Daniel Hurford Pennaeth Polisi, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Head of Policy, Welsh Local Government Association
Dr Tim Peppin Cyfarwyddwr Materion Adfywio a Datblygu Cynaliadwy, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Director of Regeneration and Sustainable Development, Welsh Local Government Association
Naomi Alleyne Cyfarwyddwr, Materion Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol a Thai, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Director, Social Services and Housing, Welsh Local Government Association
Pam Kelly Prif Gwnstabl, Heddlu Gwent
Chief Constable, Gwent Police
Professor Jo Richardson Deon Cyswllt Ymchwil ac Arloesedd ac Athro ym maes Tai ac Ymchwil Gymdeithasol, Prifysgol De Montfort
Associate Dean of Research and Innovation and Professor of Housing and Social Research, De Montfort University

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. Mae hon yn fersiwn ddrafft o’r cofnod. 

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. This is a draft version of the record. 

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

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:16.

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

The meeting began at 09:16.

1. Cynnig i ethol Cadeirydd dros dro yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.22
1. Motion to elect a temporary Chair in accordance with Standing Order 17.22

Bore da. Good morning. The Chair is unable to attend today's meeting, therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, I call for nominations for a temporary Chair until the Chair arrives.

Gaf i gynnig Carolyn Thomas, os gwelwch yn dda?

May I propose Carolyn Thomas, please?

Diolch yn fawr iawn. I therefore declare that Carolyn Thomas has been appointed temporary Chair, and I invite her to take the Chair's seat until the Chair arrives.

Penodwyd Carolyn Thomas yn Gadeirydd dros dro.

Carolyn Thomas was appointed temporary Chair.

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

Good morning, welcome to the meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. I would like to welcome Jayne Bryant to her first meeting of the committee. The meeting is being held in a hybrid format, and aside from the other adaptations related to conducting the proceedings in hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv. A Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation is available, and we have received apologies from the Chair, John Griffiths. Are there any declarations of interest? No, no declarations of interest.

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

If we move on to item 3: inquiry into the provision of sites for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers—evidence session 2. The purpose of this item is to receive evidence in relation to the committee's inquiry into the provision of sites for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers. Joining us remotely are Professor Jo Richardson and Allison Hulmes. Could you introduce yourselves, please? If we take Jo Richardson, please, first.

Yes, thank you. My name's Jo Richardson, I work at De Montfort University in Leicester, and I am professor of housing and social inclusion.

Bore da, pawb. Good morning, I'm Allison Hulmes, and I'm national director for Wales at the British Association of Social Workers. I'm also the founder member of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work Association, and I'm a Welsh Romani Gypsy.

Thank you very much. To start with, could we just provide some context, a little, brief overview of the key challenges facing Gypsy, Roma and Travellers in finding residential and transit sites and pitches in Wales? So, Jo, would you like to start, and then Allison? Thank you.

I can provide evidence from my learned experience and my research over the last 20 years from a UK perspective. Clearly, I think Allison's evidence in terms of the learned and lived experience is very important. So, I just wanted to make it clear I don't have that lived experience.

There is a real issue that we see across the UK. As I say, I've researched in the area for the last 20 years, with Joseph Rowntree Foundation-funded work and Economic and Social Research Council. Some of the key issues that we see impacting on Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are around health, education, employment, social connection. We know that a healthy social life really starts with the home, and if that is not available because people are being moved on all the time and are feeling unsettled, or because they may have settled in bricks and mortar accommodation, which is not culturally appropriate, there are all sorts of outcomes, and it may be that it's related to mental health as well as physical health. 

The issues seem to be really entrenched. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation study I did in 2014-15 looked at sites across all of the UK countries. So, I visited sites in Wales as part of that—more sites in England, but also Scotland and Ireland too. We see that in spite of policy, legislation, budget to provide, they are necessary ingredients but they're not necessarily sufficient; there's something additional that needs to happen.

So, I think we can see the difference, for example, in legislation and policy between Wales and England. Wales has site design guidance, it has a very clear framework, there is a budget available also. I think the budget is never enough for the number of sites we need, but it's always good to have a start point, and it's not, in my opinion, the sole barrier to delivering sites. I think the missing ingredient that seems to be across the UK, the thing that would nudge up the ability to provide sites, is political will—demonstrable political will. So, there needs to be leadership from the centre. So, the discourse used in parliamentary debate, interviews by parliamentarians, Members of the Senedd—this kind of thing has a real impact, then, on what local politicians are saying, and it has an effect on what constituents are thinking as well. So, when it comes to a period around election time, it tends to be an electoral issue, and it tends to be that if you stand against a site being delivered, that speaks to the dog-whistle political and media narrative of saying 'no'.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation research found that where there are well-managed sites already in an area, where Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are seen not as 'other' but as neighbours and part of the community already, there is less objection to another site being built. So, it's a virtuous cycle. It's that that we need to break, and the way to break that is through policy, legislation, finance, but also this political leadership, and it's the latter that seems to be missing across the UK.

09:20

Jo has taken the words from my mouth. I completely support what Jo has said. For me, it isn't about finance, it is absolutely about political will, and I think what's sitting underneath the lack of political will, I am going to name it—I am going to name it from my lived experience, and my living experience—it is anti-Gypsyism, anti-Gypsyism that is systemic, that is institutionally, covertly and overtly built into all of our structures. That is the key ingredient to the lack of any progress made in relation to ensuring that there are culturally appropriate, permanent sites and that there are culturally appropriate transit sites in Wales. We have incidences in Wales of councils and of elected members who use discriminatory and hate speech in relation to Gypsies and Travellers when a site is proposed in their locality. This cannot be acceptable. We have, as Jo says, the legislation in Wales, we have the policy frameworks in Wales, we have the race equality Wales action plan, which was implemented yesterday or the day before—I should know, I wrote a piece on it. It was implemented this week. We want to achieve an anti-racist Wales by 2030. This will never happen until we face up to and we tackle systemic anti-Gypsyism in Wales, let alone the rest of the UK. We are going to find ourselves in a position later on this month where we will have families, where we will have children, who are on unauthorised sites because Welsh Government has failed to place accountability on those local authorities, who have a statutory duty to provide for that assessed need. There are all sorts of issues with assessed needs not truly reflecting the need that's out there anyway. But we are in the eye of the storm. I don't want to sound dramatic, but, literally, our house is currently on fire. If your house is on fire, you don't water the garden.  

09:25

You put out the fire.

Okay, thank you for your frank answer. I was going to ask you whether the current legislative and policy framework in Wales supports the provision of culturally appropriate sites for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and how does the framework compare to other parts of the UK, and also whether you think the local authorities have complied with the duties placed on them to meet the accommodation needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It sounds from your earlier comments that you don't feel this has happened and, from your earlier comments, it sounds like you believe education is so important, maybe, going forward. So, we could put a policy framework in place, and funding, but if we're to overcome political will and anti-Gypsyism, then it looks like education is going to be fundamental as well. Just your comments on that, please. Thank you.

Yes, I think education is very important. I think, as Allison said, accountability. So, you've got the framework for delivery but—again, this is across the UK—there's not that loop at the end that's being looked at, so there's no sanction. You can have plans, even, but if you don't follow up—. I find it similar with social housing, certainly in England, with planning gain agreements—you can have something agreed in principle, and then later on down the line things are varied, it doesn't happen. What's the result of that? The most marginalised in our communities seem to suffer, and that's with the broader social housing stock. You then look at particularly marginalised groups, like Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, who are protected under equalities legislation. So, it's racism—that's what it is in practice when these aren't being delivered. So, there needs to be some way of local authorities, housing providers holding themselves to account and knowing that there is that check and balance so that there is that move through legislation, through policy, into practice, and some kind of follow-up from that.

I think education can work. There was a scheme in England, and it may even have been a little wider across the UK. It was a little while ago, funded by the Local Government Association, and a couple of councillors put together a team of people, including elected members across different parties. They worked with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community members as well, and they did councillor training. This was a little while ago and there was never really an appraisal process to see what came out of that. So, the evidence is only anecdotal. But it appears to be that that made a difference. I mean, those who are really not inclined to talk about this issue may not select themselves for the training, so it needs to be a sort of holistic, local-authority-wide approach, where everybody is trained, or everybody in the housing association.

Certainly, I know organisations like Friends, Families and Travellers—again my knowledge is more skewed towards England, I apologise—deliver training across organisations. And I think, if this comes from the very top, if this comes from the executive team, if this is across the political spectrum, and people start to understand more and, again, see people as part of their community—. Sometimes you hear elected members talk about 'my constituents' almost set apart from those constituent members who are Gypsy, Roma and Traveller. It's about recognising that everybody is part of the constituency, and I think training can help with that.

I think also discussions between organisations—. So, again, this is a growing forum, coming out of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I worked with the chief executive of a housing association, Rooftop Housing Group, in the midlands. So, their chief executive and I set up—. We've called ourselves the national advisory panel now, and we seem to have a head of steam, we're talking with staff at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and it seems to have built itself up to the point where we've got a publication called 'Places we're proud of'. We come together and we talk about what the challenges are. So, there's this education between organisations of sharing good practice. So, I think, across the board, education is a good idea, but so too are mechanisms for accountability to follow up on what's happening so that things don't just remain on paper, they're actually happening in practice.

09:30

Okay, thank you. Allison, is there anything you'd like to add?

Yes. Education, I think, is part of the story. We need accountability. We have an excellent policy framework in Wales, we have the legislation in Wales, we have the values in Wales. We know that Welsh Government rejected Part 4 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. If it had the legislative competence, we would not have the policing Act in Wales. So, the will is there, but as we all know, the race equality action plan is all about action, action, action. So, the actions have to match the words—we have the rhetoric—otherwise, it's 'blah, blah, blah.' We have to see action. 

Again, I appreciate that Jo's knowledge base is wider in England, but we have excellent non-governmental organisations in Wales who have supported the communities for many, many years. I work directly and collaboratively with all of the NGOs in Wales. I work collaboratively with the NGOs across the UK, in my role as a social worker in BASW but also in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work Association. Again, in terms of education, what's key is that it's led by the community, that it is inclusive, it's collaborative, because they are the experts. We are the experts. And it does require leadership. We have the leadership, but, like I said, we have that gap—we have this anomaly that we have all the ingredients there, but we have this implementation gap. And, like I said, we have to tackle the anti-Gypsyism, we have to tackle the racism.

We're blessed in Wales that, from September, we will have the new schools curriculum, where the teaching of black, Asian and minority ethnic history and contributions will be mandatory as part of that schools curriculum. That's going to be really important in ensuring that children don't leave school with those deeply ingrained stereotypes and biases against Gypsies and Travellers, and ensuring that the community is part of informing the content of that curriculum, again, is vital. My family was one of the very first families to establish the Welsh clans. We've been here for over 300 years. We are part of the history of this land, and we are also part of the sad history of state intervention in our private and family life. So, education is part of the story. And, again, we have those important and vital ingredients in Wales that we need to make the most of. But, again, in terms of accountability, we need data. From my understanding, the last time that we had an accurate account of any accurate data on shortfall was in 2006, and that needs to change. We need to have an accurate understanding.

We also need to understand the needs of Gypsies and Travellers who are living in bricks and mortar—many Gypsies and Travellers, some through choice, but a lot of that history is around forced assimilation, and that forced assimilation is about a failure to meet need across all stages of the lifespan and changing needs, including—. When we look at our populations, our communities, we have some of the worst health outcomes, but in terms of being economically active, we have the lowest rates of economic activity of any group, and that's because of long-term illness and disability. So, provision needs to accommodate disability and illness. 

09:35

Okay, thank you. That leads us on, then, to Mabon, who's going to ask about local authority sites and provision. Mabon.

Diolch, Carolyn. Mi fyddaf i yn cyfrannu'n Gymraeg, felly os gallaf wirio unwaith eto fod y cyfieithu yn gweithio. Dyna ni, ardderchog. Dim ond i ddweud ar y cychwyn diolch yn fawr iawn i chi am fynychu. Ymddiheuriadau fy mod i'n methu bod yna mewn person y bore yma—ymrwymiadau yn yr etholaeth.

Mae'n drist iawn i glywed tystiolaeth unwaith eto ger ein bron o hiliaeth yn erbyn pobl sydd yn Deithwyr neu o gefndir Roma a Sipsiwn. Mae'n dorcalonnus i glywed hynny. Wythnos diwethaf, roedd gennym ni Eisteddfod yr Urdd yn Ninbych lle roedd plant bach ar draws Cymru yn cystadlu mewn cystadlaethau fatha canu gwerin, dawnsio gwerin, ac yn y blaen. Fuasai dim o hwnna, o'n traddodiadau ni yng Nghymru, fuasai dim ohono fo'n bodoli heblaw am Roma, er enghraifft. Y Roma a'r Sipsiwn ddaru sicrhau bod y traddodiadau yna'n parhau. Felly, mae yna wersi gennym ni, ac mae angen i ni sicrhau bod plant a phobl Cymru yn gwybod am hynny. Felly, roeddwn i eisiau rhoi hynny ar y record, a gresynu ein bod ni'n clywed am hyn unwaith eto. 

Ond, mi rydych chi, Jo, ac Allison yn benodol, wedi sôn yn barod am yr hiliaeth sy'n cael ei glywed gan bobl, swyddogion a phobl etholedig pan fydd hi'n dod i drafod safleoedd. Pan fydd hi'n dod i safleoedd sy'n ddiwylliannol briodol, boed yn rhai sydd yn rhai tramwy neu'n rhai parhaol, oes yna ddigon ohonyn nhw yng Nghymru ar hyn o bryd, yn eich barn chi? Dwi'n cymryd fy mod i'n gwybod beth fydd yr ateb, ond gadewch i ni ei gael o ar y record. 

Thank you, Carolyn. I will be contributing in Welsh, so can I just check once again that the interpretation is working? Excellent, yes. I'd just start by saying thank you very much for coming today. I'm sorry that I can't be in the room in person this morning; I have commitments in my constituency.

It's very sad to hear evidence once again before us of racism against people who are Travellers or who are from Gypsy or Roma backgrounds. It's heartbreaking to hear that. Last week, we had the Urdd Eisteddfod in Denbighshire, where children from across Wales were competing in competitions such as folk singing, folk dancing, and so on. None of those traditions here in Wales would exist if it weren't for the Roma, for example. It was the Roma and Gypsies that ensured that those traditions continued. So, there are lessons for us to learn, and we need to ensure that the people and children of Wales know about that history. And I wanted to put that on record, and regret that we're having to have this conversation once again.

But you have, Allison specifically, talked about the racism heard and experienced by people, officials and elected representatives when it comes to discussion of sites. When it comes to culturally appropriate sites, be they transit sites or permanent sites, are there sufficient numbers of those sites in Wales at the moment, in your view? I suspect I know what the answer is, but let's have it on the record.   

'No'. That's the short answer. No, there aren't. I think there are long waiting lists for existing sites. As with all housing provision, there needs to be a range. So, there need to be private sites that they provide for themselves, if they have the means to do so. There need to be rented sites. There also need to be properly affordable social rented sites as well. So, there needs to be that mix, and I think there isn't. There may be an over-reliance sometimes on small private sites being delivered, but local authorities, housing providers, need to make sure that there is sufficient provision for those who need it, and there isn't currently across the UK—that's the picture. 

Jo, cyn i ni fynd ymlaen i Allison, un peth rydych chi wedi'i godi yn fanno, Jo, yw rydych chi'n sôn bod angen safleoedd fforddiadwy. Fedrwch chi ddiffinio ychydig beth rydych chi'n golygu wrth fforddiadwyedd, os gwelwch yn dda? 

Before we go on to Allison, one thing that you've raised there, Jo, is that you talk about the need for affordable sites. Could you define what you mean by that in terms of affordability, please? 

Yes. I'm talking about sites probably provided by local authorities or housing associations. I think there aren't sufficient of those, and there is still a need, otherwise we are solely reliant [Correction: on the private market]. So, 'affordable' is quite a loaded word. Certainly, in an English context, if we look at affordable housing, up to 80 per cent of market rent, that's not affordable for very many people. So, I'm talking about not using more than a third of a person's net income. We're looking at properly affordable—what we used to call 'social housing'. 

Mae'n ddrwg gyda fi, Mabon— 

I'm sorry, Mabon—

I didn't have the translation at the time, but I think, from Jo's responses, that you were asking about the availability and if there were sufficient sites, and I can only echo what Jo says—no, there aren't sufficient sites. Again, there isn't a one size fits all; there needs to be a variety of sites that meet a variety of different needs, including the ability to own land and have planning permission, but also sites that are social rented, as well as local authority. And I think 'affordable' is a really important point because, again, I go back to those ONS statistics about Gypsies and Travellers having the lowest economic activity. With some work recently with the all-Wales poverty coalition, we're beginning to understand that poverty levels for communities increased during the pandemic for a number of reasons. Some of them were around, obviously, not being able to go out and do the sorts of jobs that they would normally do because of lockdown, and also they were locked out of many of the job-retention schemes—which were designed, again, to support families who were at risk of falling more deeply into poverty at that time—because of the sorts of occupations that they undertake. And also, there is a reluctance to apply for welfare. Again, it's cultural, it is about pride, it's about cultural practices, 'We support ourselves', and it also is about that non-reliance on a state that doesn't look after you. So, needing to care for one's own family. So, affordable is a really important consideration.

09:40

Diolch, Allison. Os caf i jest ofyn ymhellach ar y fforddiadwyedd yna. Fe ddaru rhai ohonom ni wneud ymweliadau safle yn ddiweddar a mynd i drafod efo rhai preswylwyr, ac yn un ohonyn nhw roedd y preswylwyr yn sôn bod yna drydan yn dod mewn i'r safle—safle cyngor oedd hwn—ond bod y trydan yn dod mewn i un pwynt ar y safle ac yna'n cael ei rannu rhwng yr unedau eraill i gyd, a bod pob un ohonyn nhw yn gorfod talu'r un faint, ond bod y pris hefyd yn uchel iawn, yn uwch na fuasai hwyrach rhywun mewn tŷ yn gorfod talu. Ydych chi'n gweld y math yna o beth? O feddwl am fforddiadwyedd yn ei ystyr lawn, nid jest talu am y pitch, ond am yr holl gostau ychwanegol yna. Ydy hynny'n ffactor yn eich astudiaethau neu yn eich profiadau chi?

Thank you, Allison. If I can just ask further to that point on affordability. Some of us visited sites recently and we discussed with some residents, and one of the issues was that residents said that there was an electricity supply to the site—it was a council site—but that electricity supply reached one point on the site and it was shared by all of the other units, and all of them had to pay the same, but that the price was very, very high, and higher than it would be for somebody living in a house. So, do you see that kind of situation? And thinking of affordability in its fuller sense, not just paying for the pitch, but all of the other costs associated with that. Is that a factor in your experiences too?

Absolutely, Mabon, and again it's one of the issues that we're trying to raise through the all-Wales poverty coalition. When we were looking at the winter fuel payment, again, lots of Gypsies and Travellers were locked out of the winter fuel payments because they have gas bottles, so they weren't built into the eligibility criteria. And also, again depending on where the site is, they're often quite remote, they're far away from local amenities, so we have to factor in the cost of petrol and diesel in terms of the cost-of-living crisis. We have to also think that those vehicles are used for employment and, again, diesel, those cost-of-living implications will impact on Gypsies and Travellers who are living on sites. If we think about the fact that it costs more to heat trailers. Trailers aren't insulated in the same way. So, again, when we're thinking about really good provision, it's about thinking about things like insulation, environmental footprint, the ability to have solar energy. So, energy and fuel, because of the cost-of-living crisis, have a massive impact on poverty levels within the communities. 

Yes. I mean, we're still talking about this. It's frustrating. I'm happy to share an electronic copy of my Joseph Rowntree report, but, considering I was collecting data in 2014 for this, we're nearly eight years on. I've got three examples that I'm just looking at, about utilities on sites, negotiating with energy companies. One site that I visited—well, a couple of sites had moved to individual smart meters and residents really liked that because they had control over their own energy use, the smart meters are better for environmental sustainability, but other sites not so much.

The situation that you described is one I heard across the board—you know, frustration at being charged high rates and not having control over usage. I think that sometimes people forget where the front door is, and they think it's the entrance to the site, whereas I wouldn't expect people who were walking onto a road where my neighbours are to think that that was my front door, and to think that that's where they could put their post, or that's where they could start charging me for my energy usage. We need to remember that each pitch is the front door, not the beginning of the site. So, I think it's a real issue.

If you end up with card meters, pre-payment cards, these are more expensive ways of buying energy. So, I do think there's a real need for councils and housing associations to invest properly in the sites they already have, not only for satisfaction and economic efficiency for residents, but because a well-managed site is more likely to have people saying, 'We are happy to have new sites being delivered; we can see that they're well managed, well run; residents are happy; it looks nice; it's part of the community.' So, this is a smallish symptom of a broader issue around management of sites, but, clearly, with the cost of living currently, I can quite see why the residents you visited brought this up as something; it's a big issue.

09:45

Diolch yn fawr. Rydych chi'n codi pwynt difyr yn fanno hefyd, rhywbeth mae rhai wedi sôn wrthym ni yn eu tystiolaeth. A hoffwn i, os yn bosib, ymhelaethu ychydig ar y pwynt yma o addasrwydd safle i gychwyn, cyn mynd ymlaen i drafod faint o ymgynghori a faint o drafodaeth sydd rhwng awdurdodau lleol â'r cymunedau rydyn ni'n sôn amdanynt.

Mae lot fawr o'r dystiolaeth rydyn ni wedi'i chael, neu dwi'n sicr wedi'i chael, yn sôn bod y safleoedd presennol jest ddim yn addas. Maen nhw ar ochr ffyrdd prysur iawn, felly mae plant yn gorfod croesi ffyrdd prysur er mwyn mynd i barc cyfagos, er enghraifft; maen nhw'n ddiarffordd ac yn bell o siopau neu ganolfannau cymdeithasol. Roedd hwnna'n wir yn y dystiolaeth rydym ni wedi'i derbyn. Ydych chi'n meddwl, Allison a Jo, fod hwnna'n gyffredinol wir yng Nghymru? Ydy hwnna'n ddarlun cyffredin, a sut fedrwn ni wella hynny? Beth sydd angen ei wneud er mwyn newid? Allison. 

Thank you very much. You raise a very important and interesting point there, something that some have already told us about in their evidence. And I'd like to perhaps expand on this point of the suitability of sites, before going on to talk about how much consultation and discussion there is between local authorities and the communities that we're talking about. 

A great deal of the evidence that we've received, and certainly that I've seen, says that the current sites just aren't appropriate. They're at the sides of very busy roads, so children have to cross very busy roads to go nearby parks, for example; they're secluded and far away from shops or social centres. That was true of the evidence that we received. Allison and Jo, do you think that that is true in general in Wales? Is that a common picture that you're aware of, and how can we improve that situation? What do we need to do to change that? Allison.

Yes, that's a common picture across Wales, but also across the whole of the UK. Katharine Quarmby is an investigative journalist and she calls it 'environmental racism', the siting of sites. 

So, first of all, we need to acknowledge that that's what it is. We need to acknowledge the impact that living in such sites has on the mental, the physical health, the well-being of Gypsy and Traveller communities who are forced to live that way. And we have to use all of the levers that we have in Wales to change that. And don't repeat what we already have. I think Jo said earlier about the othering. I think one of the questions that I thought might come up was about what's happening outside of Wales, and that negotiated stopping might come up. And, for me, it's a kind of no, no, no, because it may be a short-term solution, but all it does is it reinforces that othering.

So, I think, in terms of the solutions, we have to listen, listen to the community, listen to what they're telling you about what is right and appropriate for them; what fits in with the legislation, with the legal duty to ensure that there are culturally appropriate sites and transit places, and that it's a positive duty. It's something that Welsh Government and local authorities have to do; they have to actively ensure that these duties are met, and just not repeat the disasters that we see at the moment.

Yes, I would certainly agree. In terms of the location of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller sites in the UK, this is for political expediency rather than because it's the right place to be, often not in consultation with residents. And, very sadly, they are by motorways, under railways, near sewage treatment plants. Some sites have been on contaminated land, previous industrial land. If we all ask ourselves the question that should be asked when planning for homes, 'Would I like to live here? Would I like members of my family to live here?', if you look at the locations, quite often, the answer would be, 'Not really.' Only in the most desperate of circumstances would you want to be located in some of those areas. And it is because it's the patch of land that had the least hostility, that could be developed, rather than somewhere that was going to make a decent home. And I think, sometimes, we can have contrary planning criteria as well.

So, this is a real issue, and I think, if we look at new pitches being developed only because they can add a couple of pitches onto existing sites, what you're doing is exacerbating a current problem. It tends to be, certainly over the research I have done, talking with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, that smaller sites are preferred—whether this is affordable social housing sites or private sites, people prefer to have smaller sites—located near to a community, not necessarily always on the outskirts of a community, but it should be done in consultation with those residents. So, I think, if we're just piling more pitches onto existing sites, as seems to be the case with some new site provision, then this is really problematic.

09:50

I think, in terms of the location of the sites, what it does as well is it reinforces in the minds of non-Gypsy and Traveller populations that you're different. Often, like I said, individual trailers are kept like palaces, but because the environment is so poor and it hasn't been properly maintained, it feeds into that notion that's propagated by some parts of the media that Gypsies and Travellers don't care, that they're dirty, that they don't look after the environment, that they leave a mess. So, literally, it continues to feed all of the stereotypes and the racism about Gypsies and Travellers.

Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi'ch dwy. Gadeirydd, os caf i un arall—dwi'n gwybod fy mod i'n gwthio fy hun fan hyn. Ond rydych chi wedi sôn, mae'r ddwy ohonoch chi wedi cyfeirio at wrando a diffyg ymgynghori, a dyna fy mhwynt olaf i, a dwi isio ymhelaethu ychydig ar hynny, os wnewch chi, os gwelwch chi'n dda. Yn y dystiolaeth rydyn ni wedi ei derbyn ar safle, er enghraifft, roedd yna un enghraifft lle roedd preswylwyr yn sôn bod angen trwsio ffordd ond bod yr awdurdod lleol wedi dod mewn a thrwsio ffordd arall, a heb wrando o gwbl ar beth oedd dealltwriaeth a barn y bobl a oedd yn byw yno. Ac, ar safle arall, roedd cwyno bod y rheolwr yn yr achos hynny yn gwrando dim arnyn nhw, ac mewn gwirionedd yn reit ddilornus o'r bobl a oedd yn byw yno. Yn eich profiad chi, faint o ymgynghori go iawn sy'n mynd ymlaen rhwng yr awdurdodau lleol a'r cymunedau a'r bobl a'r teuluoedd sydd eisiau byw ar y safleoedd? Faint o ymgynghori sydd ynghylch lle mae safle'n mynd i gael ei osod a beth ydy anghenion y safle, o ran anghenion siopa, o ran anghenion addysg, o ran anghenion diwylliannol? Faint o ymgynghori sydd mewn gwirionedd yn mynd ymlaen efo pobl sydd am fyw yn y safleoedd? Ac mi wnaf i orffen yn fanno. Jo, mi wnaf i gychwyn efo chi.

Thank you very much to you both. Chair, if I may ask one further question—I know I'm pushing myself here. But both of you have referred to listening and a lack of consultation, and that's my final point, and I want to expand on those issues, if you will, please. In the evidence that we've received on sites, for example, there was one example where a resident said that they needed to mend a road, but the local authority had come in and had mended another road, without listening at all to the understanding and view of the people who lived on the site. And on anther site, residents complained that the manager didn't listen at all to their views, and, truth be told, they were quite disparaging of the people who lived on that site. So, in your experience, how much genuine consultation takes place between the local authorities and the communities and the people and the families who want to live on these sites? How much consultation is there in terms of where sites are going to be located and what the requirements and needs are on that site, what the requirements are in terms of shopping, education and cultural needs? How much consultation takes place with the people who want to live on these sites? And I'll finish there. Jo, I'll start with you.

Certainly, across the UK, in doing the research, there's not a lot of consultation, not heartfelt consultation. There's lip-service consultation with many Gypsy, Roma and Travellers. There are some examples where residents are really heard, there are some well-designed new sites that have been delivered, so it does happen, but it's very, very far from universal practice. Certainly, in the Joseph Rowntree report, I referred to it, and it became an emblem of not listening, and perhaps I over-egged it, but I called it 'the pothole of despair', because it became an emblem of not listening—it was there for years. I found it frustrating and I'm a researcher doing a project for a two-year period; I can only imagine what it feels like to be a resident on the site I visited. This wasn't in Wales, this was in England, the site I'm talking about. But it was an emblem to me of a lack of listening, a further process of marginalisation, and this, 'Get in and out of the site quickly and do what we think should be done', rather than consult with residents more broadly, both about sites where they would like to live, but also the sites where they're currently living. And I think it's indicative of a wider social malaise, if you like, around thinking that people don't want to listen. They feel that they know who Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are and it goes back to this education piece and, hopefully, if you we can get that right, then people will think more about opening their ears and their hearts to finding out more and providing properly, culturally appropriate, well-managed sites. 

09:55

Cyn ein bod ni'n mynd at Allison—diolch, Jo—rydych chi wedi sôn reit ar gychwyn eich ateb yn fanna am enghreifftiau da. Tybed a oes gennych chi enghreifftiau da fedrwch chi eu rhannu efo ni, er mwyn inni weld beth ydy'r enghreifftiau da a sut mae'n bosib rhannu'r wybodaeth yna, os gwelwch yn dda.

Before we turn to Allison—thank you, Jo—you said at the beginning of your response there about good examples. If you do have those examples, could you share them with us as a committee so that we can see what those examples are and how we can share that learning, please?

Absolutely. I will send links to a couple of the reports I've done and there are some examples in there.

Yes, I would agree. It's inconsistent. I would call it 'listening but not hearing', and it's not just in relation to housing. It's systemic. We have these persistently stubborn inequality gaps that never close. They never close, not because we don't know what the problems are; it's because we don't listen when it comes to the solutions. So, it is systemic. 

I was really interested in what Jo said about 'go in quick, think of what needs to done and get out quickly'. As a social worker, I'm really concerned about the over-representation of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children who are referred to child welfare services in England and Wales and who become looked after. I have experience in my own family of forced removal. My own mother and aunts were forcibly removed into state care. Now, we have social workers who, outwardly—. As a profession, we are a human-rights-based profession who are committed to social justice, but, again, in social work, we have this anomaly. So, we have these value bases as a profession, but when it comes to the actions in relation to Gypsies and Travellers, something different is happening; social workers are not working within their values and their codes of practice. And we're trying to understand that and frame that around aversive racism. And this is exactly what happens in relation to all of the systems within local government, within local authorities—just within communities, but particularly within local government. We have these lofty words around, 'We are committed to equality, to diversity, to inclusion. We are anti-racist', but, again, something different happens. So, there's listening, but there's not hearing, and that's the issue.

Thank you, Mabon, as well. Thank you, both. If we move on to Sam now.

Yes, thanks, Chair. And good morning and thank you, Jo and Allison, for your attendance this morning—it's really appreciated.

I just wanted to start just by, actually, supporting some of the comments you made very early on in terms of that relationship and the importance of that relationship being built up between elected members and those of the Gypsy and Traveller community. My lived experience of that is, when I was first elected a councillor in 2008, I remember a really helpful workshop being put in place, which I attended with some of the recently elected members, just sharing some of the issues and challenges that the Roma and Gypsy community in particular face up in north Wales, and that really helped me understand some of the issues. I probably had a particular interest because members of my own family are of the Gypsy and Traveller community as well. So, actually, that relationship being really important, I certainly agree.

Again, in my own experience, I did find it difficult though, when I, at one point, objected to a site being introduced, exactly for the reasons that Professor Jo mentioned in terms of the site being right alongside a dual carriageway. I was then labelled as a Nazi by members of the Gypsy and Traveller community. So that relationship is a real key, because actually similarly then, as an elected member, it's quite difficult for me to have formal objections around an issue that I genuinely care about and then being labelled in a certain way, which certainly isn't true of myself. But no, I really support your comments there about how the key to much of what we're talking about today is those relationships and understanding of each other's challenges.

The comments and questions I had, really, were to do with the accommodation assessment needs process. We've already talked about, today, some of the assessment needs and how they come about. So, I just wonder whether you consider that the current assessing of accommodation need for Gypsy and Traveller communities is robust enough, and where you'd like to see the changes take place that you think should take place. Perhaps Professor Jo first.

10:00

Yes, I'm happy to. I think Allison may have better expertise than me on this, though, particularly. I have undertaken accommodation needs assessments myself in England, across a sub-regional area. I've undertaken three or four, from the early 2000s up until about seven or eight years ago. The reason I don't undertake them anymore is because there has been less and less time and less and less resource put into doing a thorough, robust accommodation needs assessment, certainly in my experience in England. I think, to get a proper accommodation needs assessment, you need to really engage with Gypsy, Roma and Travellers. 

Pretty much all of my research is co-production research, which means working with community members, whether that's related to my housing research or Gypsy and Traveller research. So, to do that, you need to work with the local community members, get them involved in designing the piece of research so that you know what questions to ask. You need to have a long enough span period to undertake the research. There's no point, for example, doing it over a couple of months over the summer. There needs to be an understanding of patterns of travel and residence, ideally over a year. And when accommodation needs started to change and it became more of a consultancy approach, so people could do a quicker job, it wasn't the robust methodology that I would want to have employed. So, I didn't go in for those sort of jobs anymore. 

I do think that it needs that wider, robust, strong approach to really understand, because you find that Gypsy, Roma and Travellers don't necessarily identify as such very readily. I think Allison talked earlier about centuries, generations, of mistrust of the state. So, if someone's going to ask you if you're something that you think the state hates, you're not going to readily put your hand up and say 'yes'. I think the mechanisms that we use to measure different identities aren't always nuanced enough. So, for a number of reasons, I think accommodation needs assessments across the board could be improved.

I would echo what Jo is saying, and absolutely about the need for the assessments, including the design, to be participatory, and time. Taking time is really, really important, and it is about those centuries. The first anti-Gypsy laws were passed in 1530. That's hundreds of years of a deep mistrust, for very cogent reasons, of the state. So, contracting out—. Again, we come back to who is undertaking those assessments then. Again, they're done too quickly. Anything done too quickly is often not robust, and we're not factoring in, then, what is the knowledge base of contractors: do they understand deeply the needs of this community? Have they had training in understanding and challenging their own unconscious and conscious bias in relation to the communities that they're undertaking assessments of? So, unless you can say all of that's done—. Because, again, when we go back to education—and education is really important—I think we heard Sam saying that he benefited from some really good training, but, again, training is really great in the here and now, but if we're not following up to ensure that it's making a difference to the lived and living experience of those that it impacts on most directly, then it's not effective.

So, absolutely, slow things down, ensure we have the right people and that assessments are co-designed, co-produced; they should be undertaken by Gypsies and Travellers in my view.

10:05

That's really, really helpful, and it's just triggered something in my mind, because, when I was leading a council, we did put in place a permanent Gypsy and Traveller site, but one of the big challenges on that was actually that the funding mechanism for that was Welsh Government grant, I believe, for the majority of it, but, as you will know from your experience, grants are often given with a 'have to be spent by x date'. So, I think some of the grants we're talking about are the usual 'have to be spent within the year'. So, if you're given that grant in October/November, you can imagine council officers don't want to see money not being spent, so you're sort of scrambling around for things perhaps to be spent in a way that isn't as good as if that time was taken. And perhaps it's something we as a committee could consider in terms of the way in which funding is provided from Welsh Government to local authorities to deliver some of these things, actually, and that the pressure isn't on to get them spent within very short timescales, because, as you say, perhaps the best outcomes don't appear with that sort of pressure for that money to be spent in such a short timescale. So, that's really helpful.

But the things that you say in terms of co-designing, research together, all that sort of stuff; if I spoke to a council officer tomorrow, they would say they were already doing this. So, why—? And I've seen myself the work they were doing in terms of engaging with Gypsy and Traveller communities to understand their needs, so what is it they're not doing at the moment that they should be doing more of? Because, as I say, at the moment, they'd say that they would do it. Does it feel like just ticking a box? Is that the issue, that it's a heart thing, because, at the moment, it's all an intellectual process rather than a sort of emotional process as well?

I think, Sam, the best judges on whether or not effective collaboration is taking place are community members, not the councillors. Ask community members: is effective collaboration and communication and co-production taking place? And they will tell you, overwhelmingly, 'no'.

Yes, absolutely, but my point is that the officers think they are. So, what is it about their approach that isn't ticking that—or satisfying the community?

And I think that's what we need to address. We need to address their misunderstanding in what they think is happening. And again, that's where effective training is really important. Training needs to happen right across Wales, across all local authorities; it needs to happen with the police, it needs to happen with the judiciary, so it's not just local council officers who hold these views that are incorrect. But I think, with local councillors, we urgently need to undertake training with them and training that is co-produced with the community, so that we can bridge that misunderstanding gap.

I'd agree with all of that. Also a very good measure of whether the communication and co-production is effective is: have new sites been built? Are sites being well managed? And if the answer to both of those is 'no', and I think we've heard evidence that that's the case, then it's not effective collaboration. Someone can think they're listening—I think Allison put it beautifully earlier—there may be listening, but there's not necessarily hearing going on. One of the other reasons I found undertaking, or leading a team of people undertaking an accommodation assessment so dispiriting is because when I went and did a few of the interviews myself and spoke with community members, they said, 'Does this mean that a site's going to be built? Are you going to be providing us with a new site or a better-run site?' And I would have to say, 'I'm an independent researcher. We're leading a team. We are trying to assess accommodation needs.' And they'd say, 'Oh, right.' And you could almost see the light switching off in people's eyes, because they thought, 'Here we go again. We're being consulted again on what might be the ideal site, who in my family might need accommodation, but will there be a new site? Based on previous evidence, probably not.' So, I think there can be consultation fatigue. So, it needs to be really meaningful.

On your point on funding cycles, wouldn't it be marvellous if we could stop short-term funding across the health service, housing—you name it? Because these things don't get done quickly. That would be lovely. In the current reality, though, I think, even with the funding cycle that there is—and we talked about funding not necessarily being the key challenge here; it's more political will—we know that more sites are needed. We know it because there are waiting lists, we know it because unauthorised encampments still exist, people are still being evicted. So, if those things are happening, that is demonstrable evidence of need. So, why wait for the perfect needs assessment? Why wait for argument finessing over whether it's 37 or 38 pitches that are needed? Some pitches are needed, sites need to be delivered, and local authorities and housing associations have the skills and have the expertise to do this. I think the cultural training is a really important bit, and the backing and the leadership of local and national politicians. That would make a crucial difference.

10:10

Thanks. And perhaps just one more question, if I may, Chair. Where do you think does this best in Wales?

That's a loaded question, isn't it?

Genuinely, it would be helpful to have some really good examples. Sorry, I'm not trying to be facetious.

Powys doesn't do a bad job actually, although we're extremely disappointed that they are not going to fund the stopping place that has been used for years and years and years for the Royal Welsh Show. They've pulled that funding, without consultation with the community, at a time when the police Bill is about to be implemented. So, red mark there, Powys—very sorry. But, generally, Sam, the picture is poor right across Wales. I wouldn't hold up any authority as an exemplar.

I visited one site back in 2014-15. It's anonymised in the report, but, as I say, I'm going to send the report over and people in Wales may recognise the site that was being—. It was fairly newly delivered when I was visiting it, and that seemed, on the day that I was visiting and talking with residents, to be a lovely site, and people were broadly happy. But I think the issue around the temporary site for the royal show—I read about this—was in the report as an example of good practice, the rolling out of that site, so it's really sad to hear that that's not happening. And I heard Allison's comments earlier about not negotiated stopping, because there have been really excellent examples in Leeds, and I did a piece of work in London for the Greater London Authority, looking at negotiated stopping and the opportunities in London. It's great for what it needs to be. So, it's good for meanwhile use of land and temporary site provision, or for transit site provision. The Royal Welsh Show site is an example of that. People know that, every year, this piece of land is needed for particular use, and it's negotiated, it's temporary, it's rolled out and it's rolled back again, and that kind of negotiated approach to site delivery for temporary use should be available for particular things. So, yes, I was really sad when I read that. So, unfortunately, that's an example of good practice that's no longer extant by the sounds of it.

Okay. Sam, you've finished. Can I just ask, do you think, at this stage, that there should, then, be a wholesale review of the framework regarding legislation, policy and design? What do you think?

I think you've got it, though. Wales has seen—. In England, we often say, 'Let's look at what Wales are doing in relation to social housing.' You've got that policy framework, you've got the funding, you've got the site design guide. I think many Gypsies and Travellers would probably just say, 'No, just build the sites.' So, I think, by all means, undertake a refresher or a review as you're going along, but don't let that be the thing that's the focus of your attention. I think it's about educating and narrowing that policy implementation gap, as Allison said earlier.

I mean, if there's a review anywhere, it's around the lack of accountability and what enforcement mechanisms the Welsh Government needs to ensure are in place on those local authorities that are not implementing that statutory duty. That's where a review needs to be, but that shouldn't take place before action happens in relation to the provision of sites; that can happen simultaneously.

10:15

Yes, thanks for your view on that. I'm going to move on to Joel now, who's going to ask about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Thank you, Chair. Thanks ever so much for coming to today's evidence session. Obviously, Allison just mentioned at the end the new crime Act coming in, and I just wanted to get your opinion—a generalised opinion, I suppose, at the start—about the overall impact that you believe it would have on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, but then also how aware the community is of this incoming Act, and how geared up community groups and charities and NGOs are, as Allison mentioned earlier, in terms of providing that help, support and assistance.

I have been campaigning with partners in Wales—we have the Wales coalition against the Bill—and with Drive to Survive, with NGOs and communities throughout England and Wales. This is absolutely devastating. We've talked about those inequality gaps, we've talked about the impact of poverty and how COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis is increasing poverty levels for the community, and then we have a new criminal offence that is not needed. This is, again, a response to dog-whistle politics. We have a new criminal offence and the penalties are a fine of up to £2,500. So, that is going to further impact on poverty levels if community members are caught out by this new criminal legislation.

Removal of a vehicle: we know that vehicles are essential for work purposes, we also know that vehicles are homes—you know, we are removing homes. I can send you, again, the 2022 research in The British Journal of Social Work around over-representation of Gypsy and Traveller children referred to child welfare services or taken into state care. Our concern is that if you remove those homes, where are those children going to go? Because, as a social work researcher, we know that kinship care within Gypsy and Traveller communities is not supported. It's not supported. We know that social workers lack confidence when working with Gypsy and Traveller families. It literally is that I would want to get out of there quickly; I would want to get the children out of there. So, this is the context, this is what those social workers who are involved in welfare assessments will be taking into these really, really high-pressure situations when enforcement action is happening. So, the potential is for more children to be removed into state care. And we know what happens when Gypsy and Traveller children are taken into state care—there is a lack of foster carers from within the community so they are removed from cultural identity and they are raised outside of ethnic identity. The ramifications of this last through the generations. This happened to my mother, as I've already said. There is intergenerational trauma that is handed down through the generations.

Also, there is over-representation of Gypsies and Travellers in the criminal justice system. We know that from the Lammy report in 2017. Also, again, if we come back to children's rights—you know, article 8, the right to private and family life—if you have a criminal record, you are less likely to be considered, again, for kinship care. So, we get into this loop that just exacerbates all of the inequalities that we know already exist.

Yes. So, with that in mind, then, do you think—? On the impact of what this Bill is going to bring, is the community fully aware of that, if that make sense? Because I know, when we've had evidence sessions previously, there was still a lack of information coming to them, about what the implications would be, really. And I know one of the items that was touched upon, and as you mentioned, Allison, is the unauthorised camps and that. How big an issue is that in Wales, do you think? 

10:20

I think, at the last caravan count, in 2021, there were 70 caravans on unauthorised sites, and I think there were—hang on, have I got it?—97 who were on tolerated unauthorised sites. They can always become untolerated unauthorised sites, so there's always the potential there, because they are unauthorised, so that's the key bit. But, you know, 70 I think was the count in 2021, but that doesn't tell us the number of individual people and the number of children. We just don't have that data. Also, we've got to look at, because of a lack of transit places and a lack of—. I'm not anti negotiated stopping places; what I'm concerned about is if that becomes the only answer. That's my issue with it. Like I said, I know what happens up in Leeds and how fantastically they can work, but that can't be the only option. But, you know, we have to remember that Gypsies and Travellers will travel through Wales, through all parts of the UK, and, when they're in Wales, if there are no stopping places, no transit places, they will be caught out by that legislation. So, you've got to factor in not only those already on unauthorised sites, whether tolerated or not, those who, because of their nomadic way of life, will be moving in and out of Wales.

The community is aware of this. Gypsies and Travellers are aware of this Bill, this Act. They talk about it. They're really frightened. One of the reasons that—. You know, we think it's impacted on the numbers who have been willing to self-identify in the census last year. We know, in 2011, there was an undercount, and we're concerned it'll be even worse than 2021, as the direct impact of the police Act. When the community talk about what this Act feels like, they talk about it in relation to the Roma and Sinti Holocaust. They talk about it in relation to the Porrajmos, and that's what it feels like to them. It's like, 'Keep your head down, don't identify yourself, because they're coming for us. There is this law now; they're going to take away our caravans. What's the next step?' So, this is the fear. And, again, we're talking about undertaking assessments and collaboration and partnership with the community. What local authorities and what councillors need to understand is that this is the fear that is currently there. This is the fear. And that will impact on the ability for really good communication and collaboration to take place, unless it is mitigated by someone who really deeply understands all of this history and all of this context.

It's criminalising a way of life. Allison said it so beautifully. I've got no learned experience to add to it, but I think people fear that their whole way of being is being criminalised by increasingly stringent criminal justice pieces of legislation across the UK, actually. If you look back 100 years, we've got common land that used to be used—multiple places where it was accepted, for various reasons, whether it was to do with horticulture, agriculture, fairs. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller and showpeople have moved through the country and been part of the communities that they live in and travel through. And those pieces of common land are fewer and fewer and fewer, so there's this perfect storm, this squeeze. And then, when you add in these legislative constraints to a travelling way of life, it is in contravention to human rights, as Allison has pointed out. It must be very frightening.

If you look at the landscape in Wales, you see 'lôn Sipsi', you know, 'Gypsy lane', and 'waun Sipsi', 'Gypsy common'. We are there in the landscape—our atching tans, our stopping places, where our families were born, where they died, where they lived. They're there, the patterans, the signs are there in our landscape in Wales that we are part of this history of Wales. We have the Shikawa Romanus, we have the Welsh Romani dialect, it is unique to Wales. It's something beautiful and wonderful and to be celebrated, and it's there because we are part of this landscape.

10:25

Thank you, Chair. Thanks ever so much for those responses there. With that in mind, then, what do you think the role of the Welsh Government and local authorities is in mitigating the impact of the Act, or helping the community to adjust to it or to come to terms with it, I suppose?

There's no coming to terms with it. We cannot come to terms with a racist piece of legislation. I think we have to educate the wider public in Wales, because that's where the knowledge gap is. It's not in the communities, it's with the wider public. We need to educate them. We need to use all of the levers that we have in Wales, so all the things that we've talked about today in terms of legislation, in terms of policy, in terms of the values that we hold as a nation of sanctuary, to make this Act unlawful in Wales. There is that collaboration with the police and crime commissioners in Wales, with the chiefs—I know you're going to be, I think, taking evidence with the police chiefs later on.

Again, it's about looking at the guidance around enforcement action. At the moment, the statutory draft guidance says that those involved in assessments around enforcement action should not gold-plate human rights and equalities legislation. You can't make it up. It's written there in the draft guidance in black and white. As social workers in a human rights-based profession, we wrote to Priti Patel raising our concerns and we have said very clearly to our social workers, 'You absolutely will gold-plate human rights and equality legislation.' So, there's something about that guidance, ensuring that that guidance is fit for purpose and that everyone involved is gold-plating human rights. Jo—. This gets very emotional, because it's so personal.

I can only imagine. I think it's very frightening, and I agree there's no mitigation of poor-quality, unequal legislation. There's no way to mitigate that. The only way to start to think about this in a humane way is to ensure that sufficient sites are available, is to think about common land in a different way, and to recognise different meanwhile uses in different seasons. At the moment, the Government at Westminster seem to be trying roll back all sorts of things—imperial measurements and that kind of thing—so they seem to be able to cherry-pick certain bits of our traditions that they would like to see again. I think there should be more recognition of how land used to be used so that it's suitable for all members of the community and that we have these common lands and a recognition that people travel through. I can't think of a way to mitigate what seems to be a really horrible piece of legislation.

Thanks again for those responses. I wanted to come on to the comment Allison made about the gold-plating of human rights and equalities legislation, but I just want to touch upon something, Jo, that you mentioned in terms of if there was a way to mitigate anything, it would be to look at providing more transit sites. To what extent do you think there's been a lack of—I don't want to say 'leadership'—momentum or movement from local authorities then to try and address this before it becomes an issue, if that makes sense? Has there been any movement from a council perspective in terms of trying to address this, or are they just doing what they normally do and not really doing anything?

10:30

I'm a glass-half-full person. I think local authorities are doing their best. I do think that the individuals who work in local authorities are doing their best to understand this issue and to provide sites. I think, sometimes, in spite of the politicians in the local area, officers might be trying to put forward a site, planning officers might propose a site, and it gets voted down for whatever reason. Sometimes, it's because it's in an inappropriate location, I grant you, but there's never a better alternative that's offered instead—'We'll say no to this, but it could go here.' I do think people are trying, and I think there are examples of good practice, but there's this background lack of leadership right from the very top—the political leadership right from the top, the people who are creating this piece of legislation. If you look back at some of the narrative statements from those politicians, you'll see what I mean. 

There are examples where transit sites have been provided, whether that's for a specific use, like the Royal Welsh Show, or whether it is because of this duty to direct and a cynical approach, perhaps, to finding a transit site, because then the police have the authority to direct people to a transit site. Those transit sites, again, they need to be provided in consultation with the people who reside in that area all year round, to make sure that it works for them, but also those who are going to be travelling through, because if you just build a piece of tarmac that's not in a place where, actually, it's on the travel lines or where it's going to be appealing for people to stay, people won't stay there. So, there needs to be that consultation still all the way through and provision made, but it's not only about transit site provision; there are unauthorised encampments as a result of not having a permanent home to live in—it's not only as a result of people who are travelling and don't have somewhere to stay for a short time. 

Thank you. This is the last question, I hope you don't mind. It's just with regard to Allison's comments, because Allison mentioned the UK Government's draft strategy guidance, where it said you shouldn't gold-plate human rights and equalities legislation. I know that the children's commissioner here has expressed some concern about that. I just wanted to know what you would think in practice that would mean in terms of maybe enforcing the legislation—in terms of the practice of that, then. 

Well, again, it's setting the tone, the approach, from the highest level. This is Westminster Government guidance and it is allowing, giving permission to officers that are involved in enforcement action to breach legislation. We said right at the start, 'What are the issues?' The issues are not really about funding; they're not really about having the right legislative or policy structures, because that's all there. As we talked about right at the beginning, the issue is about anti-Gypsyism, it is about racism. We talked about all of the things that we can do to change that at a societal level within Wales, all of the levers that are available to us, and then we have this piece of statutory guidance that creates a barrier to that happening, because from the highest level, it's saying, 'Actually, when it comes to Gypsies and Travellers, you don't have to follow human rights law. You can do other than, because it's Gypsies and Travellers.' So, immediately we're treated as if we have fewer rights and entitlements than everybody else who is a citizen in Wales.

Thank you. I'm just going to bring Jayne in now—Jayne Bryant.

Thank you, Chair, and thank you, both. It's been really interesting this morning and I just want to say thank you for both of your powerful contributions. As a new member coming into this, I think you've been incredibly clear about what you'd like us as a committee to do, really, and some of the issues that have come up. My questions are around consultation and engagement. Obviously, that's come up quite a lot as a theme throughout the questions this morning. I was going to ask you around the local authority consultation process before, during and after the publication of the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessment. But I do think you've been incredibly clear about what you'd like to happen. I was just thinking, on that basis, that you've talked about, this morning, people not hearing—perhaps going to listen, but not hearing—and, obviously, people who work in local authorities who are really trying their best and want to achieve, to do the right thing. But what's the level of consultation, or dialogue, really, throughout—not just people turning up and going through a process? Do you feel that there should be more dialogue between local authorities and the Roma, Gypsy and Traveller community throughout, really, rather than just at specific times?

10:35

I do, yes. Just at the moment we're in the middle of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. This is where housing providers, other community organisations and advocacy organisations put on cultural programmes. They're really trying to talk about the history. This is for one month of the year, and it makes some inroads locally. I never see a huge amount in the national press about this. I never see learning that occurs from this. It obviously needs something much stronger in the curriculum, and Allison has already talked about that.

I think more generally we need to remember all the different components that make up our society. It's not only about local authorities and housing associations speaking more with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community members—it's about all of us. It's about working with our local and national press. It's about sharing stories about Gypsies and Travellers doing stuff that humans do—about their work, about their families, about their homes—and sharing that, rather than the stories that seem to come out in the political and media narrative, which tend to be about encampments or a nuisance somewhere, purportedly as a result of a site, or about objecting to providing homes to a group of people. So, I think it goes wider than a binary debate between local authority and community members from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It needs to be about all of us talking with one another.

Yes. I was going to go on to that, really. We talked this morning around training in local authorities and how effective that can be as well. But as has been said, as Allison said, I think, it can't be just left as training that happens and people forget about it. But I was interested in those conversations with the local community as well, and also those settled Traveller communities when you have other Travellers coming in then to that community, and the issues that go along with that, or other issues where the first time that people think about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities is when perhaps there's an unauthorised encampment, and the difficulties that brings.

It is incumbent on all of us who are elected to have these conversations and to make sure that these things are talked about and issues are talked about and communities are discussed in the right and proper way. But how do you think we can go about doing that? Are there any examples of those ongoing dialogues that we can have, or just any sort of good practice? I know you said, in terms of the local authority area, that you'd send that document over—your research—which would be really helpful. It's just trying to get that trust, really, between communities to try to put off any issues that are likely to come up.

10:40

I can start off, but Allison will have much better ideas on this than me. Yes, trust takes a long time to build and it's dashed really, really quickly. And I think it's very difficult to talk about a wider trust-building set of communications with, at the same time, harsh pieces of legislation and other things going on. So, there's this dissonance between what we say we want to do and then what's actually happening in terms of legislation, a lack of site provision, that kind of thing. So, if we think about discourse as not only words but actions, then I think this—. We need to line things up so that they look right, rather than having two different sets of narratives. 

There are practical things that can be done. I know of housing organisations who work with young community members around education projects. They provide laptops, they do murals, that sort of thing. Then that makes it into the local paper, and there's a lovely good news story. That works to an extent, it's then remembering to bring that in when it comes to a consultation on a site, and moving away from antagonistic practices of bringing in a very brave soul to sit on a platform with a few officers and local authority members to defend the site plan to what can be a room full of huge hostility. So, there are ways of rethinking how we set up wider community debates around the history and the culture but also around accommodation provision. 

It's not easy. I did a piece of work—this was much longer ago, in 2004—which, again, was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and I looked at conflict mapping and that sort of thing to work out where there were allies in terms of a debate and building on that. So, there are champions, there are advocates, and they need to be given the support to do that. The world has changed in terms of austerity, in terms of public sector services and charity services having to withdraw, so you've got less infrastructure to work with in terms of trust building and communication, but there are some examples. But Allison will know much more in terms of her perspective on this. 

I think the media is a really important one to tackle, because I think Jo is absolutely right, I think gaining trust and mutual understanding is a long-term plan. It's not going to suddenly happen overnight, particularly within the context in which we're currently living. And so one of the easy ways to do that is that the media is taken to task and taken to account in terms of their own codes and their own standards when they print—. I see it all the time. I see really pejorative—. And again, like I said, all that this does is it just reinforces those widely held stereotypes.

We had Jimmy Carr, who performed in Cardiff, St David's Hall, earlier in the year. We were campaigning against it, we wrote letters to that venue, we wrote letters to Welsh Government, and he performed. We had conversations with Cardiff Council. He performed. There was a statement on the website saying that the council did not support the words that he said, and they lit the flanks of the hall in the colours of the Romani flag during his performance, but he still performed. He still performed, because, essentially, the council did not want to take the hit on cancelling that performance and having to pay back. That would have been a really important—. In terms of trust and telling the communities that they mattered and that they were important at such a significant time in our history, with this Act about to be implemented, would have sent huge, huge signals and, like I said, improved relations between the state and community. But he performed.

There are amazing, amazing community activists up and down Wales who are so exhausted—exhausted—because they don't have enough support, they don't have funding, and they're living this as well—this is their lived and living experience. They are incredible. So, that kind of mapping is a really useful exercise. We have fantastic non-governmental organisations; you will know the NGOs. Jo is right, this is Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. I've written a blog about it. Does anybody on this call today—? Do you know what the theme is for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month? Can anyone tell me? Not Jo—please don't. [Laughter.] 

10:45

'What Makes a Home?' Think about the significance of that. I've sent a blog that will be in the race equality action plan newsletter—I'll send the link to you—because I talk about all of that history, I talk about the context in Wales now with the lack of transit sites, with the lack of permanent sites, and I talk about the Bill, and I talk about—. And I end with a quote from my mother, an old Welsh Gypsy woman, when she talks about what a home means to her. So, I think this is really important in terms of mutual respect and understanding—it's Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. What is Welsh Government doing? What are the housing committee members doing back in your constituencies? You don't know what the theme is, and it's so significant at this time. 

I don't think it's been well publicised or promoted, personally, as well, and I think this is a good point to end on. We've run out of time now, and I would like to thank you both for your really good contributions today, and the committee for some really good questions as well—a really good session. I'd like to, again, thank you and say that the transcript will be sent to you for checking, and then close this session. Thank you very much. Thank you, both. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Hwyl fawr. 

Thank you very much. Goodbye. 

Thank you.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:47 a 10:59.

The meeting adjourned between 10:47 and 10:59.

10:55
4. Ymchwiliad i ddarparu safleoedd ar gyfer cymunedau Sipsiwn, Roma a Theithwyr: sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
4. Inquiry into the provision of sites for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers: evidence session 3

Good morning. We're just moving into agenda item 4: inquiry into the provision of sites for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers—evidence session 3. We have Dafydd Llywelyn here in the room with us, and we also have Pam Kelly and Carl Foulkes who are online. So, I'd like to welcome you here to the session. Again, we have Jayne Bryant, who's a new committee member, so welcome to you. So, if we'd like to just move on straight away to the first set of questions. Could I ask you whether you think the current legislative and policy framework supports the provision of culturally appropriate sites for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and how could it be improved to better meet their needs? So, shall we go to Pam first, online?

11:00

Okay. Thank you very much, Chair. Can I just confirm that you can hear me okay?

Great. Thank you. So, first of all from my perspective is that of course we've relied heavily over the years on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 legislation, and, more recently, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act has been introduced. And it's fair to say that the legislation can work if we have the right sites available, especially in Wales, in order to use the legislation properly, whilst, of course, at the same time, without question, taking into account the needs of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community—clearly, a recognised ethnic group. And, of course, we have to balance the legislation, the human rights of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, and, of course, any impact that that might have in terms of any unauthorised encampments on land. So, the legislation is there and can be utilised, and I think it's fair to say that we do need to work on some policy. I know the National Police Chiefs' Council here in Wales were working on that guidance, and it's due to be launched very, very soon.

The concern that I have is that the guidance in place means that we absolutely need appropriate sites available. We need appropriate sites available in order for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to be directed to if those powers are utilised. My concern is, if those sites are not in place, then the problem is that when we invoke the legislation, we might be subject to judicial review, and so, without those amenities and sites being available in Wales, it makes utilising the legislation and, of course, the policy that we have in place very difficult if those sites are not available, because, as such, if we give a direction for a community to move on, where exactly do we send them? And if we haven't got an appropriate site available, it means that, in essence, we are making that community homeless. So, we do need to balance all of those needs, and we do need for those sites to be available in order for us to use the legislation appropriately. And that would be my view in terms of that question. 

Okay. Sorry, I should have said right at the beginning—I've found my notes now—Pam is the chief constable of Gwent Police, and we've got Carl Foulkes, who is the North Wales Police chief constable, and Dafydd Llywelyn, who is the police and crime commissioner of Dyfed-Powys Police.

Pam, I think later on we're going to talk about the new Bill, which is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, but I would just really like to ask you about the current legislative and policy framework, which is in place by Welsh Government—it's the Welsh Government's framework—and your thoughts on it. Should it be improved to better meet needs? And your views, maybe, on a full review of the legislative policy framework in relation to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in Wales. So, really, it was just to talk about that framework. 

Evidence suggests that a full Wales-wide review of the framework for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller accommodation has not been undertaken for several years, with the last proper review undertaken with the provisions in the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. So, it was just really your views on that to start us off, please, if that's ok. 

Yes, no problem. Thank you. 

If you've got any more you'd like to add regarding that, or would you like me to move on?

Yes, just very briefly, in terms of the policy framework, I think it's fine if it actually works. So, we do work very closely with partners, which the framework obviously suggests. The issue for me is that the needs assessment isn't just for individual authorities; it's something that we need to look at collectively, regionally and across Wales in terms of appropriate sites. So, the policy framework, but also operationalising that partnership approach, needs to be looked at carefully. Even though an awful lot of work has been already been done, there's more to do in terms of operationalising that policy. That would be it from me, Chair. 

Okay. Thank you very much, Pam. We'll move on to Carl, please. Thank you. 

11:05

Thank you, Chair. I won't reiterate what Pam said, but if I can give a practical example of some of the challenges that we currently have with the current legislation, that might help answer the question that you pose there, Chair. So, recently, we had an example here in north Wales where we had an unauthorised encampment on a local authority area. The local authority used their powers to move that group to another location, on another local authority area, and again, police powers were then used to move again. What that identified was clearly that we needed a more consistent, joined-up approach to how we managed unauthorised encampments. So, we came to an approach around agreed stopping, negotiated stopping. But the reality is that there was nowhere, fundamentally, for that group of people to go across north Wales, because of the lack of transit sites available around north Wales at the moment. So, we do have more residential sites here, but that lack of transit sites meant that, effectively, both ourselves and the local authority areas are just moving a community from one locality to one locality without a clear outcome, really.

So, to answer your question around do I think that the legislation and the approach in Wales needs to be reviewed, around is it fit even currently, but also in the new legislation, I would say it does need to be reviewed at the moment, because, clearly, we are facing challenges around how do we manage the needs of a residential community and the needs of a travelling community, which are different and can be brought into conflict. And the challenge we've got around getting suitable sites is again considered a challenge across Wales.

Okay. Do you think that it's not the legislation, but the fact that it's not maybe being carried out properly, then, and making sure that there are the transient sites in place?

Well, Chair, as you know, the needs assessment has recently been done by all local authorities, and has gone back into Welsh Government. I'm not sure any local authority has identified a need for a transit site in their local authority area. I think that is one of the challenges in itself, that we can look very locally, and we know the challenges of residential communities around transit sites. So, I think that is how do we make sure that all our communities—both residential and transit—that their different needs are recognised, but also the different needs of those communities are recognised. And the reality is, when you have a history of movement, as the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community has, that means that there do need to be localities for them. And if we don't have those localities, then we will get unauthorised encampments, and we will then get local authorities, policing and landlords looking to move people on, and that does not feel right.

Do you think there needs to be better regional collaboration as well?

Personally, and certainly in north Wales, we've worked really hard across the six local authorities here with North Wales Police to get an agreed approach. But the reality is, both that Wales approach and, potentially, a Wales/England approach, would be really helpful around a more consistent approach to how we support those communities going forward.

Cross-border as well. Okay. Thank you. I'll bring in Dafydd.

Yes, thank you, Chair. Not wanting to repeat what the operational colleagues have provided you in relation to the overview of the legislation and how it then is enforced from a policing perspective, I think it's just important to touch on Carl's point in particular in relation to the needs assessments that have come back highlighting that there seems to be a lack of an identification of a need across Wales by the unitary authorities. However, from a practical point of view, the police are being called to incidents—there have not been a great number, but they are being called to these types of incidents across our communities. And therefore, from my perspective, it is more in relation to the implementation of the current legislation that's in place that perhaps needs a little bit more scrutiny. The holding to account of local authorities in relation to having available sites would be one thing, perhaps, that could be suggested, as opposed to immediately, in effect, responding through an enforcement activity, immediately going and calling for the police. So, what we found, certainly in my force area, is that, as Carl alluded to, that partnership working tends to then ensure that there is a smooth transition of individuals from one location to another location, but that can be quite challenging if there isn't an identified site for those individuals to be directed to that location. But I think the unitary authorities are now more familiar—and legislation does at times take a bit of time to embed—they are more familiar with their responsibilities in terms of that enforcement as well, and the police are very often there to guide and work in partnership with the unitary authority in that immediate response.

11:10

Thanks. Are there in each authority, are there many—? Do you have a good relationship with the liaison officers in each authority as well? Okay. And that's an important link?

Yes, it is. So, we have obviously the community safety partnerships within each of the unitary authority areas and that is an important cornerstone for lots of communication between policing and key partner agencies within unitary authorities and further afield. So, that will be the conduit, really, for some of these conversations to be had. And very often, certainly in localised incidents, the communication with that local representative as well—that local councillor or Senedd Member or Member of Parliament—is really important as well.

So, again, from a police and crime commissioner's perspective, there is an opportunity there for police and crime commissioners to also support the police from an operational point of view to ensure that all parties involved understand the issues, understand the various responsibilities of different agencies in order to ultimately problem solve. And I perhaps would take this opportunity also to highlight to the committee opportunities for prevention and continued engagement with the Traveller community, which is really, really important. And that again is something that, from a police and crime commissioner's perspective, we're able to scrutinise and hold the forces to account on in relation to their ongoing activity in this important area. And it's pleasing to say that, across the four forces in Wales, we do have significant engagement and lots of communication, not just with the key stakeholders in unitary authorities, but also with the groups themselves and representatives of those groups.

Earlier we heard that it's Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month, and the topic is 'No place like home' or something, wasn't it, which I didn't know enough about, and I'm going to make sure that I do. It's really, really important, isn't it, to try and understand each other? So, okay, thank you for that.

If we move on now to Mabon—Mabon's online—to ask some questions.

Bore da, gyfeillion, mi fyddaf i'n cyfrannu yn Gymraeg. Os caf i wirio bod yr offer cyfieithu yn gweithio. Mae o efo Carl. Os cawn ni sicrhau ei fod o'n gweithio efo Pam, os gwelwch yn dda.

Good morning, I'll be making my contribution in Welsh, so just to check that the equipment is working. It is for Carl. Could we just make sure that it works with Pam, please?

No. My apologies, it's not working—the translation.

Oes yna swyddog technegol sydd yn medru jest trio gwirio hyn?

Is there a technical member of staff that can check this?

I'm just going to pause a moment while we sort out the translation for everybody, okay? Just a moment. Thank you.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:13 ac 11:14.

The meeting adjourned between 11:13 and 11:14.

Okay, we're back in public session now. So, Mabon, would you ask your question again now that we've got the translation sorted? Thank you.

Iawn, diolch yn fawr iawn. Rydyn ni wedi clywed gennych chi eisoes fod yna ddim safleoedd yn y gogledd, yn sicr, neu yng Nghymru o ran pobl sydd eisiau symud ymlaen, fel petai, ac rydych chi wedi sôn bod yna ddiffyg safleoedd yng Nghymru yn gyffredinol. Mae'r dystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi'i chael y bore yma, ac yn wir gan eraill, yn awgrymu wrth drafod safleoedd ar gyfer y Roma a Sipsiwn fod yna lot o hiliaeth ynghlwm yn y trafodaethau hynny—pobl yn defnyddio termau hiliol. Wrth gwrs, mae disgrimineiddio yn erbyn hil yn drosedd. Ydych chi'n gweld hyn yn eich gwaith chi, wrth heddlua, fod hyn yn broblem wrth ein bod ni'n trafod safleoedd a thrio penderfynu ar safleoedd, fod hiliaeth yn dod i fyny ac yn rhan o'r disgẃrs? Fe wnaf i ofyn hynny i Carl i gychwyn.

Okay, thank you very much. We have heard from you already that there aren't sites in north Wales, or in Wales, in terms of people who want to move onwards, as it were, and you have said that there is a lack of sites in Wales in general. The evidence that we've had this morning, and from others, suggests that in discussing sites for Roma and Gypsy people, there is a great deal of racism tied in with those discussions—people using racist terms. Of course, racial discrimination is a crime. Do you see this in your work, in policing, as a problem in terms of discussing and identifying sites, that racism does rear its head and is part of the discussion? That's to Carl, first of all.

11:15

Bore da, Mabon. I lead for the national police chiefs' council for diversity, equality and inclusion. I will often describe as one of the most marginalised, if not the most marginalised community, our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, based on history, based on the perception of that community. Sadly, we don't get a huge amount of reporting around race and hate incidents against the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. That is not because I don't think it's occurring; I just think it is a significantly under-reported area. And we do hear language, still, both from within the media and from even more generally within policing, around language that is not appropriate around describing our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Do I think there is prejudice against that community? Yes, I absolutely do. You know, it is a constant challenge for us as an agency, but actually all agencies across Wales, to engage in an appropriate, proper way with our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Yes, I do think it is a challenge for us. I have a deputy chief constable that leads for me nationally around engagement with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, and one of our biggest focuses is that engagement. It is around building confidence, and it is also around building reporting around incidents that are occurring within the community and occurring to the community, Mabon, if that makes sense.

Diolch. Cyn ein bod ni'n mynd ymlaen at Pam a Dafydd, felly, yn eich barn chi, ydy hynny'n rhan o'r broblem, pan ein bod ni'n methu cael—fod awdurdodau yn ei chael hi'n anodd i benderfynu ar safleoedd ar gyfer y Roma a Theithwyr?

Thank you. Before we move on to Pam and Dafydd, therefore, in your opinion is that part of the problem, when we can't—that authorities find it difficult to identify sites for Roma and Travellers?

So, Mabon, the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, when I've met them, will say that we—and I mean the broadest 'we'—will use language around the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community that we would never, ever think about using around other communities. So, I think that has to be a problem when we look at the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, how we support them, how we engage with that community, and how we make them feel like valued members of Wales.

Not to repeat what Carl has said, I think we've come a long way, in all honesty, because of the liaison officers in different organisations, and really sharing the understanding of the success of some of those relationships with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, but we've still got a heck of a long way, I think, with some of our communities where potentially some of the sites could be located. I think that's the work that we need to progress: a shared understanding of what the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community actually is all about, and how their lives unfold and how they live together. I think that's the fear; communities see, often, an illegal encampment, and then either local authorities are trying to make that a legal encampment and/or we're trying to move that community on. And of course, because we haven't got any legal sites, the way that we apply the legislation could be even more divisive. And some of that legislation is a little bit confusing, because within the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, there's a word called 'significant' harm or distress to communities, and if the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, or any other community that's illegally encamping on land for the purposes of residing, are not a 'significant' harm, then we—and we do this regularly—allow that community to stay. Local authorities provide toilet provision and collect waste. And then the surrounding residential community don't understand the legislation, don't understand clearly the entitlements of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, and the fact then that there aren't sites available in Wales actually causes more division and confusion.

So, I think we've got a lot of work to do in terms of building relationships and supporting the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, and sharing their story with the broader community. But unless we have these sites available, we're not going to be able to apply legislation, and we are going to make ourselves vulnerable as organisations as well. So, all of this together is a problem waiting to happen, unless we progress those two areas: a site, and an understanding of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community to actually try and reduce that prejudice.

11:20

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dafydd.

Thank you very much. Dafydd.

Diolch am y cwestiwn, Mabon. Dwi'n mynd i gytuno â'r hyn mae Carl a Pam yn barod wedi'i ddweud. Rhaid inni hefyd gofio bod gyda ni gymunedau o fewn ein hardaloedd yn barod sydd yn gymunedau Teithwyr a Sipsiwn sydd yn byw o fewn y gymuned hefyd, felly nid yn unig y mae'r broblem o unigolion yn teithio ac yn mynd â'r tir yn anghyfreithlon, ond mae gyda ni hefyd dipyn o waith i'w wneud, fel mae Pam wedi sôn, ynglŷn â sicrhau ein bod ni'n ymgysylltu’n gyson â'r gymuned sydd yn byw o fewn ein cymunedau ar hyn o bryd hefyd.

 dod nôl i dy gwestiwn ynglŷn â chasineb a hiliaeth, mae'n rhaid inni gydnabod ei fod e yn digwydd, fel gwnaeth Carl sôn—mae’n rhaid inni gydnabod ei fod e yn digwydd, a bod angen i luoedd yr heddlu, yn ogystal ag awdurdodau eraill, ymgysylltu’n gyson, a defnyddio'r fframwaith a'r strategaethau sydd ar gael. Mae fframwaith gyda Llywodraeth Cymru, er enghraifft, ynglŷn â Theithwyr, i sicrhau ein bod ni yn ymgysylltu'n gyson, a bod yna gyfle gan unigolion o fewn y gymuned hynny sy’n cael ei gelyniaethu yn aml o fewn y gymuned i deimlo’n hyderus i ddod at yr awdurdodau gyda'u problemau. Ond hefyd, ar y llaw arall, rhaid hefyd cydnabod bod y gymuned hynny, fel pob cymuned arall ar draws Cymru, yn torri’r gyfraith eu hunain hefyd mewn rhai achlysurau, a bydd yr heddlu wedyn yn ymateb i hynny, os bydd unigolion o fewn y gymuned hynny yn ymwneud â thor cyfraith, yn cyflenwi cyffuriau neu allan yn ymosod ar rywun ar nos Sadwrn. Ond dyw hynny ddim yn wahanol i'r hyn sydd yn digwydd yn y gymuned ehangach chwaith, felly dylen ni ddim bod yn gelyniaethu un garfan o'r gymdeithas a rhoi'r casineb a'r hiliaeth hynny tuag atyn nhw, ond ceisio cydweithio.

Thank you very much for your question. I'm going to agree with what Carl and Pam have already said. We have to remember too that we have communities within our areas that are already communities of Gypsies and Travellers who live within the community, so it isn't just that issue of individuals travelling and accessing land illegally, but we also have a job of work to do, as Pam has mentioned, do to ensure that we engage consistently with the communities who currently live within our communities.

And to come back to your question with regard to hatred and racism, we have to acknowledge that this is happening, as Carl said, we have to acknowledge that it is happening, and police forces, as well as other authorities, have to engage constantly and use the frameworks and strategies that already exist. The Welsh Government, for example, has a framework with regard to Travellers. We need to use those frameworks to ensure that we do engage, and that there is an opportunity for individuals within these communities that are often persecuted within the communities to feel confident to come to the authorities to raise their problems. But also, on the other hand, it must also be acknowledged that that community, as with every community across Wales, breaks the law in some instances as well, and then the police will respond to that, if individuals within those communities are involved in criminal activity, be that with regard to supplying drugs or attacks on a Saturday night, for example. There's no difference in the treatment of that community to the way that the wider community is treated either, so we shouldn't be focusing on one cohort of society and directing hatred and racism towards that; we should be co-operating and collaborating.

Diolch. Mae Dafydd yn fanna wedi sôn am bwynt pwysig, sef yr ymgysylltu, ac mae Carl a Pam wedi sôn tipyn am hynny yn ystod eich tystiolaeth hyd yma. Mae'r dystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi ei derbyn yn y pwyllgorau neu ar safle yn awgrymu yn gryf fod y gymuned Roma a Sipsiwn a'r gymuned Teithio yn pryderu bod yna ddiffyg ymgynghori ac ymgysylltu, nid o reidrwydd o safbwynt yr heddlu, ond yn gyffredinol o safbwynt yr awdurdodau. Ac mae hynny, felly, yn creu trafferthion, yn golygu diffyg dealltwriaeth ac yn y blaen. Ydych chi yn derbyn ac yn cydnabod, neu'n credu, yn wir, fod yr awdurdodau yn eu cyfanrwydd yn methu â chyfathrebu yn glir ac ymgynghori'n glir efo'r cymunedau Sipsiwn, Roma a Theithwyr, pan fo'n dod at anghenion y cymunedau yna, o ran anghenion safleoedd ac anghenion diwylliannol? Gaf i ddechrau efo Pam, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you. Dafydd there has mentioned the importance of engagement, and Carl and Pam have talked quite a bit about that during their evidence so far. The evidence that we've received in our committee or on site visits strongly suggests that the Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities are greatly concerned that there's a lack of consultation and engagement, not necessarily with the police, but in general in terms of authorities. And that creates difficulty and creates a lack of understanding et cetera. So, do you acknowledge or believe that authorities on a general level fail to communicate clearly and consult clearly with these Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in terms of their needs, in terms of site needs and cultural needs? Could I start with Pam, please?

I think there's more that we all need to do—local authorities and policing alike. I think there's more that we all need to do. I can only speak from a Gwent perspective in that we have quite a robust Gwent regional multi-agency protocol, and that includes liaison with the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling community, and we have a designated liaison officer here.

I think one of the concerns that I have is: do we really understand the extent of that community within our locality and border? And I think that's a question that we must all ask ourselves. And in particular, I think that when we look at the needs assessments that, of course, local authorities have a duty to undertake, that needs assessment isn't just about provision, it's about the level of demand. I just wonder whether or not we're actually engaging enough with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community to understand the demand—and that might be local authority and/or regional demand—in order to ensure that those sites are available. So, I think there is a fair amount of good liaison taking place, I just wonder whether the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, and the, if you like, stakeholders from that community, are broad enough for all organisations—policing and local authority alike. And I think that's something that we might need to look at more closely.

11:25

Diolch, Mabon. I think it's difficult for policing to comment on local authority engagement, but I think it's very difficult for us to dismiss the lived experience, the lived evidence that is being reported back to you. I think Pam has talked around policing's journey; we still have a long way to go around proper engagement on a regular basis. I think it absolutely has got better, but there's always more that we can do. But I think lived experience and what you've heard is very, very powerful, and it's very, very difficult to dismiss. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Ac yn olaf, felly, Dafydd.

Thank you very much. And lastly, therefore, Dafydd.

Eto, fel mae Pam a Carl wedi sôn, efallai ei fod e'n anodd rhoi ateb i'r cwestiwn ynglŷn ag awdurdodau eraill, a hefyd, oherwydd ein bod yn cynrychioli ardaloedd gwahanol yng Nghymru, bydd yna enghreifftiau gwahanol ar draws ein hardaloedd hefyd. Er enghraifft, yn sir Benfro, dwi'n ymwybodol bod yna ymgysylltu brwd wedi bod ers degawdau gyda'r gymuned Teithwyr, Roma a Sipsiwn yn sir Benfro. Fel mae'n digwydd, roedd fforwm ieuenctid wnes i ei greu rhyw bedair blynedd yn ôl, sydd dal wrth eu gwaith—roedd unigolion o'r gymuned hynny yn rhan o'r peth drwy'r ymgysylltu a'r cysylltiad sydd gyda, fel mae'n digwydd, yr awdurdod lleol yn sir Benfro, ynghlwm ag awdurdodau eraill a mudiadau eraill, ac yn cydweithio i sicrhau bod y gymuned yn chwarae teg o ran addysg, iechyd ac, wrth gwrs, yr ymgysylltiad hynny gyda'r heddlu pan fo angen.

Again, as Pam and Carl have mentioned, it might be difficult to give an answer with regard to other authorities, and because they represent different parts of Wales, there will be different examples across our regions as well. For example, in Pembrokeshire, I'm aware that there has been ready consultation for decades with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in Pembrokeshire. And as it happens, the youth forum that I established around four years ago, which is still operational—individuals from that community were part of that initiative through the engagement and the connection with, as it happens, the local authority in Pembrokeshire, and with other organisations and authorities, and collaborated to ensure that the community does receive fair play in terms of education, health and, of course, that wider engagement with the police when it's needed.

Diolch yn fawr. Mae'r fforwm ieuenctid yn swnio'n ddifyr iawn, a'r gwaith da efo sir Benfro. Os oes yna fwy o dystiolaeth ynghylch hynny fedrwn ni ei chael, buasai hynny'n cyfoethogi ein dealltwriaeth ni. Felly, hwyrach y bydd yna gyfle maes o law inni gael mwy o wybodaeth ar hynny, os gwelwch yn dda, Dafydd. Dyna'r cyfan gennyf i. Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd.

Thank you very much. The youth forum sounds very interesting, and the good work in Pembrokeshire. If there's more evidence about that that we could have, it would enrich our understanding. So, perhaps there'll be an opportunity in due course for us to have more information on that, Dafydd. That's all from me. Thank you very much, Chair.

Okay. Thank you, Mabon. We're going to move on now to Sam.

Thanks, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for joining us this morning. Your time is really appreciated. We've probably already started to cover some of points that I was perhaps going to raise with you around the assessment of accommodation needs. But just picking up from what's been mentioned so far, do you think the police forces and commissioners are involved enough in the assessments of needs at the moment? Should you have a stronger voice within that assessment of need? Perhaps I'll go to Dafydd first, as you're in the room, Dafydd.

Diolch. Thank you. That's a very good question, actually, and as the needs assessments were being discussed earlier, I was trying to scratch my head as to whether we were consulted and whether I engaged or not. And I'm sat here sadly not able to answer that question and give you a formal answer as to whether my office, as the police and crime commissioner for the Dyfed-Powys police force area, contributed to the consultations within our force area. On reflection, having said and made that statement, I think it would be wise for the police to be more engaged and involved, but that's notwithstanding that, perhaps, my operational colleagues will now inform us that they are heavily involved in some of those needs assessments. So, apologies for my personal ignorance in relation to our interventions and the providing of evidence into those needs assessments. But I would suggest, yes, it is vital, because a lot of what we've talked about this morning already is in relation to that partnership working, communication and cross-pollination of information and data sharing. Therefore, it would make sense for police to ensure that there is a strong voice into those consultation responses.

I think, in all honesty, in terms of needs assessments, they need, first of all, not just to be undertaken by individual local authorities, but need to be looked at on a regional basis and a broader basis, and that needs to be done in partnership. Even though the local authorities have the responsibility to undertake that needs assessment, preferably regionally, because the demand isn't significant but it is needed, that should be in partnership. So, that is one steer that I think is important, that we consult, we engage and we determine the need together.

11:30

Bore da, Sam. So, I'm not going to touch on what others have said. I think the term 'statutory consultation', I think, would be really important. We are not a statutory partner in the consultation around the needs assessment. Whilst we do give information, and we have, and you'll know that from Conwy, Sam, I think that statutory footing where we've got a proper place at the table, and for that I'd go with the office of the PCC and policing, may help those needs assessments going forward, in my view.

That's really helpful, thanks. It does point, perhaps, to another issue, which we as a committee, I understand, will be considering in future, which is around the number of partnership-type boards that now exist at various levels, whether it's PSBs, regional leadership boards, corporate joint committees coming into place—that sort of stuff—which, to me, would seem like appropriate places for things like this to be properly or further considered. As we know, the support and issues that need to be dealt with here certainly aren't just on county council boundaries, so that makes a lot of sense.

In terms of that overall relationship, then, with local authorities, whether it's providing support or dealing with issues as they arise, how would you describe that relationship? From what I've heard so far, it sounds like it's generally quite positive. But are there opportunities for that relationship to improve, and if so, what would that look like? I'll go in reverse order, perhaps, just to keep things fair. Carl.

Diolch, Sam. So, if I can talk about north Wales, and then more broadly operationally around Wales, and others will come in. So, certainly, over the last two years, when we knew the police and crime sentencing Bill was being developed, we across north Wales have linked with five local authorities to come together to agree how we work together smarter, more efficiently, and how we make sure, whenever the legislation does come in, that there's a proportionate and appropriate response. I think that forms a basis, and that's led at executive level across, and it reports into the chief execs meeting in north Wales, so it's really helpful.

And then more broadly across Wales around policing. Whilst there will always be local nuance, there will always need to be cognisance of the local area. We have a chief officer at the moment that is working across Wales to pull together the four forces to, again, ensure that we have a consistency of approach, recognising that local challenge and local issues, so you're not getting a different level of service and you're not getting a fundamentally different approach across the four forces. Now, we can't do that with English colleagues, but we can do that in Wales, and I think that's really important. So, we've got that kind of local and regional, and then we've got the national around policing operational response working our way through at the moment.

Perhaps before Pam comes in, could you just help me understand that a little bit more, Carl? I understand, technically, why it necessarily can't be done with colleagues in England, but we'll know about the transient movement through north Wales into—I guess—Cheshire, from your perspective. Is that a particular challenge that we would need to consider as well, in terms of how we consider some of the issues here?

So, one of the outcomes of the new legislation is that the operational advice—and it is operational advice—that comes through the National Police Chiefs Council has just been updated and, actually, it's been signed off by my committee and will be going out to all forces. That will give a broader, 'These are the things you need to think about. These are the approaches that you need to address. And this is the good practice that's available for all forces.' So, again, you try to get a degree of consistency, so you haven't got a fundamentally different approach in Cheshire than you have in Cumbria.

I think Appleby horse fair is a really good example, when you see a large number of transient sites developing, and the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community moving up to Appleby, but they are going through a number of different forces. So, what we want to try to avoid is a different approach in each individual force area. So, that advice and guidance, Sam, will support forces making good decisions, based on the new legislation and the way we go forward.

11:35

Okay, thanks. Sorry, I think Pam was next in terms of the previous questions around the relationship with the local authorities.

Yes, thank you, Sam. The relationship with local authorities is positive. I think the protocols and the work that Carl has mentioned are very much a partnership approach here in Gwent, and I know with our neighbours in south Wales as well.

The issue for me is about provision. Ultimately, we can have all the protocols and legislation in place that we'd like, but if we haven't got the provision of a site, then we're curtailed in terms of how we apply that legislation.

In terms of cross-border work, it's absolute common sense that we work in partnership with local authorities and police forces alike across the border. We regularly have members of the Traveller community come in from the Avon and Somerset area and further afield, and that dialogue with police officers and local authorities is there. It's the provision of a site that is the issue, and unless we deal with that, we're going to be alienating communities who travel through Wales.

Thanks. I don't know if Dafydd wants to comment further.

There's not a huge amount to add to Carl and Pam's input, but just to say, I guess, that the engagement and the communication and the partnership working are obviously going to be at different levels in different circumstances, and what we very often find when there's an illegal encampment is that there is a pretty quick escalation of that communication to, in some cases, chief officer level, and discussion at chief exec level within unitary authorities as well. But then, that is to deal with the immediacy of that particular issue, whereas what Pam speaks of is that longer strategic perspective and view of trying to ensure that there are suitable sites for the community to be directed towards and to be utilised.

So, I'm not going to repeat what they've said, but just to say that there is significant engagement and various activities at play, and I would wholeheartedly agree with your comments in relation to the role of public services boards, community safety partnerships, and those forums that do exist for that open dialogue to be had, and for actions, I guess, or activity such as the needs assessments, to be discussed in a wider forum. And an opportunity, perhaps as well, to give individuals from that community an opportunity to feed in to the assessment as well, which again—. I declared my ignorance in relation to the needs assessments earlier, but I would be advocating for the needs assessments of the future to ensure that they have the lived experiences of the community informing them as well as the authorities themselves.

Okay. Thank you. So, we're going to move on to Joel now. He's going to ask questions on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Thank you, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for coming today. It's been absolutely fascinating and very informative so far. I suppose it is probably best if I come to Pam first, because I know Pam's already sort of lightly touched upon the new legislation coming in, and I just wanted to get a general view from yourselves about what you think the impact of the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act will be on your activity, really, and on your engagement and interaction with the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community.

And then also, to what extent do you see yourselves utilising these powers, if that makes sense, in the sense of, are they needed, or—? Because we know you mentioned the lack of authorised campsites from the local authorities, and we spoke to those in the previous evidence session and they said, 'Well, unless that's addressed, this issue is just going to make things a lot worse.' And I just wanted to get your idea on that.

And also, Pam, you mentioned about the interpretation of the law, and you highlighted the word 'significant', in terms of significant disruption and damage. And I just wanted to get your thoughts, then, and everybody's thoughts, then, in terms of the interpretation of the rest of the Act, including that section as well, I suppose. Thank you.

Thank you very much. Thank you. So, from my perspective, if we first of all just have that reflection that if there is unauthorised encampment, so illegal encampment on someone's land, then the impact that has on communities is significant. Communities and land owners obviously become distressed and concerned, and sometimes, if those people who are camping on land, and doing that in an unauthorised way, are in large numbers, that has a significant impact on communities. So, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act couples with the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 that we've traditionally used, and it provides, basically, a summary offence for us to apply. But within the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, we can, obviously, work with local authorities and land owners, and work in terms of giving a direction. Where there is significant harm that is likely to cause damage, disruption or distress, we can then invoke that legal footing in order to ask that unauthorised encampment to move on. And then there are powers of arrest, et cetera, should they return.

Now, all of that is there in order to, of course, work as a last resort to apply that law, because we would far rather consult with communities, landlords and of course the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, and work through what we can do to move that encampment on to a legal footing. In Gwent at the moment, we have illegal encampments where, actually, the local authority are working with the community, through their planning department, to turn them into a legal site. But the issue is, when these communities land, it can cause a whole array of disruption and, of course, community cohesion becomes a problem. And so, if that site, the legal sites that we can move the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community on to with the appropriate provisions, is not available, then it's very difficult for us to use some of these powers.

So, that's what I meant earlier in terms of operationalising the powers that we have to best effect, but always as a last report: we need to have the tools in terms of an area, a designated area, that we know that we can utilise when these happen. And, of course, this doesn't happen all of the time, but it happens frequently enough for us to need at least a regional site and/or some designated sites across Wales. So, for me, we cannot utilise these powers, even though they'll always be utilised as a last resort, unless some of these sites are available. And, of course, police have powers, but also local authorities have powers as well in these cases.

11:40

Thank you, Joel. So, the new Act, as Pam has rightly said, doesn't take away anything we had before, or local authorities had before. So, it strengthens some of the pre-existing legislation, predominantly around highways, and it strengthens the three months, moving to 12 months return. I certainly see—and certainly the way that the advice has been written to police forces—that the use of the new powers and the new legislation would really be in the most egregious circumstances.

If I could give you some examples, it's probably helpful. So, if we saw an illegal encampment on a school playing field or a school area that meant that school could not open, or if we saw a shopping centre or a local business that couldn't open because of an illegal encampment, those are the types of circumstances potentially that the new powers will be used on. But, and if we go back to the days of COVID and the pandemic, the police took a five-step approach, and that fundamental approach of engagement, talking to communities and understanding what potential breaches—. So, I don't see very many circumstances that we would move straight to enforcement. I would actually see a stepped approach, as Pam discussed, where we discuss with communities the impact they're having, and where we're going to go, and it would be a last resort that we end up using what are quite significant powers, if that helps, Joel.

Thank you. Pam and Carl have obviously outlined some of the changes and how the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act will provide, I guess, some greater powers from a policing point of view. But perhaps I'd be sat here trying to reassure the committee a little bit in relation to the way in which that will then be enacted in operational policing across Wales, in that the approach will always be that engaging, educating, both the community in the wider sense, as well as those who are on the specific encampment, in relation to the legislation. Because, very often, when these illegal encampments arrive at a location, the community themselves aren't necessarily aware of what the legislative framework around that is. So, that education is really important. And then that dialogue between the community and those who are part of the encampment is really, really important.

So, having discussed this previously, prior to the new legislation, we believe that there will be a limited impact—I can't say there won't be an impact, because there is a change in legislation, but— there will be a limited impact on the practical way in which this is enforced and policed. Because at the heart of all of policing, all of the policing powers, there is that discretion that the police officer will have locally. The police force locally will also have discretion and will be seeking to work out the best possible solution in the circumstances of the day, which, very often, are very uniquely different in these circumstances. And Carl has provided some great examples of where it might be very practical for greater enforcement to be implemented because of the depriving of a school being able to open, for example. So, having read through the legislation myself, and knowing what is currently in place, I think that there will be a limited change to the responses to police locally. We also need to look at the volumes of numbers of these encampments that take place and they are relatively few in number across Wales, and, as a result of that, I cannot see that this will have a significant impact, both on policing of the issue, but also on the community at large and the Traveller, Roma and Gypsy community themselves. The policing response in Wales will not see a step change in the enforcement activity as a result of this legislation being enacted, in my opinion. 

11:45

Okay. Thank you, Dafydd. Can I just come in a minute, Joel? Carl, you mentioned a five-step approach that you do. Would you be able to send us that so that we could have a look at that? We'd be interested to know more.

It would be a pleasure, Carolyn. It's actually based on what we did during the COVID pandemic around the enforcement of COVID legislation. And actually, it held really well in Wales around our approach there and we do believe that it has a place here as well.

No problem at all. It's probably best if I start with Dafydd again, because the next set of questions that I wanted to ask, you've just touched upon, really, and that was really to what extent illegal, unauthorised Traveller sites are an issue, really, in your area, but then also in Wales on the whole. And you mentioned, then, about how the new legislation would probably not have that much of an impact in terms of current policing and actions and levels, but is there a way that police forces can quantify that in the sense of simplistic terms, I suppose, you know, 'Annually, this is what we spend on this issue, and then, going forward, we think this is what it'll increase, or decrease', that sort of stuff?

Yes. So, in preparation for this evidence session, we did ask each of the forces what were the numbers of the illegal encampments that were being dealt with and civil orders being obtained by local authorities to deal with those encampments. And it's quite interesting, actually, that the figures back in 2017 were about 26 on an annual basis and we've seen that drop consistently year on year, and actually, for 2021, the figure was three. So, it seems that they have reduced over time, but that doesn't mean that there isn't still significant impact on the community that experiences that encampment within their area. I happen to live in a village in Ceredigion where we've seen two encampments arrive over a period of about four years, and they can cause some significant—for want of a better phrase—community tensions, and that, then, immediately speaks again of what Carl talks about in terms of that approach of educating and engaging with the communities in order for people to understand the legislation and to understand what, then, the authorities in the wider sense, both local authority and the police service, will do. Because I think we have had experiences where perhaps the community immediately feel that the police should move on to the camp and try and move people on quite forcibly, and that's not the best way to deal with these circumstances. There are more longer term strategic ways of dealing with it that then is a better way of problem solving it, repairing the harm within the community in the wider sense, but also treating the Traveller, Roma and Gypsy community with respect and dignity in relation to their rights and their needs as Travellers as well.

So, we've seen the figures, and we can provide you, perhaps, with a briefing note in relation to that—and I know Mabon requested some information in relation to the engagement in Pembrokeshire—so there could be a few things that we could provide yourselves post the evidence session today, and we can provide those figures to you as well. But, in short, we've seen a reduction: 26 in 2017, it was 11 in 2018, eight in 2019, five and then three, concluding in 2021.

11:50

Thank you. If we could get that information, I think that would be brilliant. And I suppose with that, then, Pam and Carl, I was just wondering if that reflected on your areas as well, then, really, in the sense that maybe the coverage of this new legislation, for want of a better phrase, maybe being blown out of proportion, maybe, in terms of what the police can already do and all that. What's your view on that, really?

So, if I come in first and then, if Pam would like to come in after, that's fine. Dafydd has got the—. He's absolutely spot on with the reports he's had. I suppose the slight worry that I do have is that, actually, we don't get called to a lot of encampments at the moment. You know, they're dealt with by local authority colleagues, they're dealt with locally by landowners, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, what we don't know at the moment is will the new legislation and the publicity around the new legislation increase those calls for service that currently we're not getting, or will, potentially, partner agencies look to us, in the first instance, potentially, rather than in the last instance that, potentially, we've got at the moment. But the reality is that we will monitor that process, we'll record those incidents, and we'll have to see how, in time, it progresses.

Yes. I'd just support what Carl has said. I think we do need to, across agencies, ensure that we are recording appropriately and, of course, recording the application of the legislation as well, if it is applied, just so that we can feed into that ongoing needs assessment with local authorities and be in a strong position to provide a Welsh perspective. Some of those encampments stay for 24 hours and then move on, and so they might not be recorded accurately. But what Dafydd has said certainly reflects what we're seeing here in Gwent, in that they are not frequent in terms of the illegal encampments, but, when they do happen, the impact it has is significant, and therefore the multi-agency response needs to be absolutely spot on, and that's what we're working on.

Thank you for that. Chair, do I have time to ask more, or—?

Oh, good. Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for those responses so far. And I suppose I'd probably best start with Carl now, as I've gone to Pam and Dafydd first. I just wanted to get some idea of the extent the police uses current guidance from the Welsh Government, specifically 'Guidance on Managing Unauthorised Camping 2013', and whether or not police forces could benefit from updated Welsh Government guidance, considering—. Obviously, we've talked about how the new Act coming in from Westminster might not necessarily have that much of an impact, but do you see that there needs to be a bit more coming from the Welsh Government in this situation? Can I ask that to Carl first? Thank you.

Thank you. So, I suppose I go back to the fact that I, the National Police Chiefs Council, have rewritten our operational guidance on the back of the new legislation, because we recognise the potential impact and the changes. So, would we welcome, do we think it would be—[Inaudible.]? Certainly, in my point of view, I think an updated recognition of the legislation, which is obviously primary legislation across the UK, would be really helpful. We do currently use the 2013, it's really helpful when we engage with our partner agencies, so an updated version, for me, that recognises the changes, I think, would be really helpful.

11:55

Yes, I fully support that. I think it's good housekeeping to update the 2013 guidance in line with new legislation. Whether that legislation is used frequently or not isn't the issue. I think the fact that the legislation needs to be included in the guidance is important.

Just in terms of, potentially, the role of Welsh Government, I think it would be really helpful if there was a steer in terms of that regional approach to needs assessment. Whereas, generally, local authorities see it as an individual needs assessment, I think that regional and broader needs assessment could be a useful steer from Welsh Government.

Perfect, thank you. Dafydd.

Yes, I completely agree with both Carl and Pam. It would be welcomed, the review. It makes sense to make amendments based on the changes to the primary legislation, but, in addition to that, a timely reminder, as Pam alluded to, of the responsibilities. The needs assessments, potentially, could be refreshed in ways—looking at the questions earlier from Mr Rowlands in relation to the way in which partners engage and contribute to that would be useful also.

One topic that hasn't come up in the session this morning, but I'm going to mention it, is in relation to the target hardening of sites as well. I haven't got any figures in relation to how much unitary authorities and other agencies spend on target hardening, and what I mean by target hardening is that prevention work that is put in place, the concrete blocks and physical gates that might be put in place to safeguard some spaces. I wonder whether that investment could be better served in ensuring that we have sites for individuals to be directed across Wales. It's just a suggestion.

Dafydd, when you say 'target hardening of sites', you mean unauthorised sites that Travellers might be using.

May have used or maybe a repeat location. We have repeat locations across Wales where illegal encampments may occur, and, as a result of that, unitary authorities—and not just unitary authorities, other agencies; it might be the health board or other establishments—will then—. It's a bit of a technical term to say 'target hardening', but, from a policing point of view, it has basically meant that sort of prevention activity in relation to gating or putting the big concrete blocks in place to, in effect, deter individuals from using that site—

From a defence perspective in terms of those encampments. So, my question or my suggestion would be that perhaps that could be looked into as well in terms of the amount of investment in that area, whereas perhaps, as you heard from us, from a policing perspective, we would be advocating for more sites to be made available across Wales.

Okay. Welsh Government do make funding available as well, don't they, for new sites. It seems to be, from the earlier evidence sessions, that the political will behind it as well could be an issue when allocating new sites. We're just going to move on to Jayne now, finally. Okay, Jayne, if you're ready.

Thank you, Chair, and good morning, everyone, and thank you very much for the evidence that you've provided so far. I'm just going to finish on some questions around consultation and engagement, and some of that has come up previously. I was just wondering about the role that you see the police playing in building trust between the settled community and Traveller communities as well, just wondering how you feel how you all do at facilitating building trust at the moment and your engagement with communities, both Traveller and settled communities, in between any part when perhaps tensions might come if there are unauthorised encampments. I don't know who wants to answer that first.

Thank you. Yes, thank you, Jayne for the question, a really important question, really, in terms of building relationships. In terms of interlinking with the travelling community, Gypsy and Roma community, I have to say, and I'm speaking from a Gwent perspective here, our police community support officers—. As you know, Welsh Government fund a significant number across Wales. What we've found is currently working for us is designating a point of contact for communities, so a police officer contact who understands the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and some of the issues and concerns that they face, but also our police community support officers, who have built some brilliant relationships with children from the travelling community.

I think for those that are settled and we have the opportunity to build communities, there's some great examples of good work here where we're actually encouraging members of the settled community to become members of our mini police, so that we're really breaking down barriers and building that relationship for the future. We have future generation police community support officers—next gen, as we call them—and they're doing some great work for us there.

The challenge—and this is where I think we need help from settled communities—is when those travelling communities come through our areas, sometimes there's even tension between the settled and the travelling community. So, who are the key stakeholders that we link in with, especially when, perhaps, they arrive on land illegally and encamp? Because sometimes, in the past, we've used our settled travelling community to be that bridge, and it hasn't actually worked. So, I think we've got some work to do, not so much about the settled communities, but those who are just passing through and then decide to stay, often through encamping on land illegally because there isn't an alternative site. How do we build that bridge?

We're working on that with local authority leads, but that is our constant challenge. Because they might just pass through Gwent once in every four or five years, so building a relationship is really difficult, but we absolutely give it our best shot. And certainly around safeguarding issues with children—and this isn't around settled or travelling, it's across the board—we absolutely ensure that we have that link with young people as well. Across the board, it's important that we have that link with young people, whether they're settled or travelling communities, so that people feel that they can engage with us if there's a need.

12:00

I'm not going to add to what Pam said. I absolutely agree. I think we have come a long way, and we've still got a long way to go. We've also got our own officers who are from a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller heritage, so making better use of those—. And we've also got a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller police support group, which sits across the UK. Making best use of their lived experience as well around our approach going forward is really critical. But, I do go back to Pam's point: people and officers, PCSOs, who have a knowledge and an understanding of the lived experience of the culture are really important, because often where we get it wrong is that we don't have that and we barrel in. Where we've got that kind of close liaison, that close understanding, that's where that relationship and that building of trust absolutely occurs. We've invested in that and we're really grateful for Welsh Government's support around that. It's something that we need to keep doing, both around those settled travelling communities and those unsettled travelling communities.