Essex: Welfare unit having positive impact on travellers


AN INITIATIVE aimed at improving education and social care among the Essex traveller community is being hailed as a success by partners involved in the project.

The Essex Countywide Traveller Unit (ECTU) was only set up five months ago, but councillors say it is already having a positive impact in terms of improved health, education and social care.

According to the public sector partners involved in the project, the unit has supported more than 130 children into school and helped five young people gain access to further education and training. Further successes include flu inoculations for almost 300 families and fire safety inspections at 12 traveller sites.

The ECTU is made up of a partnership of Essex County Council together with district, borough, and unitary councils, as well as Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, Essex Police and health bodies. The unit was formed in response to the inequalities the Essex traveller community faces and to ensure a consistent approach to unauthorised encampment enforcement. By agencies working together and pooling resources, they estimate they will collectively save £1.3million over five years.

Essex County councillor John Jowers, who is cabinet member for communities and planning, said: “The Countywide Traveller Unit is a highly- innovative project that utilises the skills of our partners to make life better for a large number of individuals. By working together we can not only improve the life chances for our traveller community, but we can help to improve community cohesion.”

The council says health outcomes for gypsies and travellers are the worst of any ethnic group. Its figures show that while households in Essex have a one in 514 chance of a fire incident, gypsy or traveller site pitches have a one in 23 chance.

Nearly 20% of traveller parents experience the death of a child compared with less than 1% of the population as a whole while the average life expectency of gypsies and travellers is 10 to 12 years below the average.

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The ECTU aims to ensure children of compulsory school age have access to appropriate education and support adults to improve education levels. It also sets out to provide equality of access to social care and health services for the traveller community while a reduction in the high number of fire incidents on traveller sites in Essex is another key aim.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, chief fire officer, David Johnson, said: “The approach taken by the ECTU means that each partner can do so much more for the gypsy and traveller communities of Essex than they would otherwise by working in isolation.”

He added: “The ECTU is critical in the support it provides and the outreach work across sites throughout the county will reduce the risk of fires and improve community resilience.”