Skip to main content

Gypsy Travellers, Human Rights and Social Work

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.” It incorporates principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversity." (International definition of social work)

On March 24, 2017, an evidence summary, IRISS Insight 35, written by Shamus McPhee, Social workers Ken McLennan and Colin Turbett was launched. 

Gypsy Travellers experience denial of identity, forced assimilation, racial harassment, daily discrimination, a lack of understanding and respect for cultural difference – all on a regular basis. They also experience poorer life outcomes than the settled community, with poverty clearly related to discrimination experienced. (Iriss Insight 35).

Members of the Gypsy Traveller community, independent social workers, academics, Iriss and SASW hosted a free event - chaired by award winning broadcaster and author Lesley Riddoch - which was intended as the start of a programme to bring about lasting change.  

This event provided the audience with opportunities to:
1. Embrace opportunities to improve and learn
2. Explore social work's role in upholding a Human Rights approach to support Gypsy Travellers
3. Share our ambition to provide leadership on this issue

The partnership between members of the Gypsy Community, IRISS, SASW, social workers and authors is based on trying to establish lasting change, as despite legislation, policy, the Scottish National Action Plan and other drivers there has been little improvement in the circumstances of this unique ethnic group. Social workers who attended the event admitted very limited knowledge about the community, and were invited to become champions of change for themselves and colleagues back in the work place.

SASW and IRISS intend to continue the work with our partners. SASW member Ken McLennan refers to the launch on the 24th in a blog on the SASW members forum (Human Rights post)