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BASW and SWU oppose Part 4 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The proposed new offences could result in Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities being subjected to continual eviction and potential prosecution

In March the Government outlined plans to introduce a range of new criminal offences that will have a disproportionate effect on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities across the UK.

These plans are set to be introduced as ‘Part 4’ of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSCB), which was published on 9 March 2021.

The proposals include making ‘trespass with intent to reside’ a criminal offence and give authorities extra powers to seize vehicles - which in many cases are family homes or essential for work purposes - as well as impose fines and imprisonment.

The outcome of these measures will be a likely increase in homelessness, poverty, and involvement of social services. More Gypsies and Travellers will also be pushed into the criminal justice system, where they are already over-represented.

The Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work (GRTSW) Association - along with community members, NGOs which advocate for the diverse Romani and Traveller communities in the UK, the Labour Party, Plaid Cymru and human rights organisations – are opposing Part 4 of the PCSCB and are asking for it to be removed from the proposed legislation.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and the Social Workers Union (SWU) strongly support the position of the GRTSW Association and urge Government to remove Part 4 from the Bill.

The proposed new offences could result in GRT communities being subjected to continual eviction and potential prosecution.

On 17 May, the GRTSW Association submitted a statement to the Human Rights Joint Committee, explaining how the proposals are a significant threat to the health and welfare of children and adults from GRT communities.

The Welsh Government has also published a written statement on 24 March, confirming they have laid a Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) setting out their opposition to parts of the Bill that impact on devolved matters including Part 4.

BASW Cymru is pressing the Welsh Government to move forward with the LCM as a matter of urgency.

Allison Hulmes, BASW Cymru National Director and co-founder of GRTSW Association, said: “As a Welsh Romani, being able to lead a nomadic life - as my ancestors have done before me - is deeply rooted in the psyche and inherited consciousness of my family and all Romani and Traveller people. 

“These proposals are a direct attack on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities across the country. As social workers, we must stand up to racism and oppose any moves by the state to criminalise a way of life that has existed for thousands of years.”

John McGowan, General Secretary at Social Workers Union (SWU), said: “There is clear evidence that racial discrimination has impacted the wellbeing and life aspirations of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities across the UK. The proposed legislation is an extension of this structural racism: it represents a clear threat to the rich culture and heritage of these communities.

“Therefore, SWU stands with BASW to firmly oppose part 4 of the Bill – and we stand in solidarity with GRT communities up and down the country.”

Learn more about Part 4 of the PCSCB