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BASW Blog: 'Why the wheel cannot stop turning'

Allison Hulmes, BASW Cymru National Director, on why social workers must oppose anti-GRT proposals in the Police Bill

Last Wednesday (7 July), I took the train from Swansea to London. It was the first time in 18 months that I’d been on public transport or outside of Wales.

My motivation was clear: I was travelling to London to join in solidarity with my brothers and sisters from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) and other nomadic communities.

We came together to show our opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament.

Nomadic ways of life are under threat

If this Bill goes through without significant amendments, it will give police the powers to seize Gypsy, Traveller and nomadic peoples’ homes; impose fines of up to £2,500 on GRT people; as well as imprison those unable to access ‘authorised’ stopping places because of a lack of provision.

In other words, these proposals are designed to criminalise and eradicate nomadic ways of life in the UK; cultures and traditions that have preserved and evolved over hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. 

Drive2Survive - support the campaign!

The Drive2Survive campaign is the result of true grassroots activism – community members bringing their time, skills, friendship, energy and determination not to stand by and allow this Bill to eradicate our legally protected rights to lead a nomadic life.

As a Romani Gypsy, I am proud to be a part of the campaign to protect our communities and traditions - and I urge social workers from all backgrounds to find out more about the campaign and how they can support it.

Why social workers should oppose the Government's anti-GRT proposals

There are many reasons why social workers should oppose this Bill and stand in solidarity with Gypsy, Traveller and nomadic peoples:

  • Social work is a human rights-based profession. This Bill clearly breaches fundamental rights and freedoms, including the Equalities Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1988 – especially Article 8 rights to private and family life.
  • Social work is relationship-based, focused on strengthening families and communities. If this Bill goes through, social workers will inevitably be caught up in enforcement action, trying to secure emergency accommodation for distressed children and parents who have their homes removed from them. Potentially some children will end up in temporary or even more permanent state care.
  • Gypsies and Travellers have some of the worst health outcomes, including mental health and suicide rates are six times higher than the general population. The measures in the Bill are likely to exacerbate these inequalities.
  • The British Association of Social Workers and the Social Workers Union both oppose Part 4 of the Bill and stand in solidarity with Gypsy, Traveller and Nomadic peoples.

'The wheel cannot stop turning'

Women have been at the forefront of the Drive2Survive campaign. It was fitting then, that we gathered alongside the statue of the suffragist, Millicent Garrett Fawcett with the words ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere’ written on the plinth.

Allison Hulmes, BASW Cymru National Director, spoke at the rally last week

The Drive2Survive campaigners and allies are answering that rallying call and are mobilising, coordinating and strategising.

There were more than twenty fantastic speakers on the day, each bringing messages of solidarity, including Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Baroness Shami Chakrabati, Zarah Sultana MP, Billy Welch, Andy Slaughter and Nicu Ion. Thomas McCarthy, a Traveller songwriter and storyteller also sang a poignant song of haunting beauty.*

I was proud to deliver a speech - representing my Welsh Gypsy family, the GRTSW Association and BASW. 

In my speech, I said that "the wheel cannot stop turning" ­- and it can’t. I urge you to follow the Drive2Survive campaign, organize via your branches and write to your MS’s and MP’s using the BASW briefings for guidance.

- Allison Hulmes, BASW Cymru National Director

*All speeches and performances from the rally can be viewed on the Drive2Survive website