Leicestershire County Council -Multi agency Travellers Unit *
Leicestershire County Council were led by the race equality duty to establish a multi-agency unit to act as a 'one-stop shop' for all Traveller-related issues, including complaints, access to services, advice and training. The unit became operational on 9 July 2009 and included specialist staff from the county council, city council, NHS and Leicestershire Constabulary. It is responsible for site management of the current local authority sites in the area and is also working closely with all partners towards a long-term solution to the issues facing the local Traveller population and the settled community.
Traditionally, the role of Gypsy and Traveller liaison officer was an isolated role, mostly hosted by county councils and generally, expected to be a ‘Jack of all trades'. This was the case in Leicestershire with both the County Council and Leicester City Council employing two Gypsy and Traveller liaison officers, as well as site managers, and the district authorities tagging the responsibility onto other roles (often environmental health officers). The responsibilities for issues were passed from one person to the next without any consistency of service for both the Gypsy and Traveller population or other members of the public. By drawing up an agency agreement between all the local authorities and other services, such as the police, Travelling Families Health Service, Housing-related Support and the Traveller Education Service they were able to coordinate a consistent approach to delivering services across the whole of the county, including Leicester city. Pooling staff enabled individuals to specialise particular areas of work such as site management, planning, enforcement and community engagement improving the level of service given and saving money.
Public opposition to provision of new sites for Gypsies and Travellers has also been a huge issue in Leicestershire. The County Council have been able to take representatives from the Gypsy and Traveller Equality Project along to public meetings to answer questions about Gypsies and Travellers and to also meetings with members and officers about how sites are provided. In the past, there has been a lack of consultation with Gypsies and Travellers in policy making and service delivery. By encouraging community representatives to attend meetings relating to service delivery, they have been able to make difficult decisions about the cuts to service. They have been able to retain the parts of the service that are the most needed or have altered the method of delivery in a way that fits the modern Gypsy and Traveller lifestyle.
Leicestershire County Council concluded that:
- In the past, there has been a lack of consultation with Gypsies and Travellers in policy making and service delivery. By encouraging community representatives to attend meetings relating to service delivery, we have been able to make difficult decisions about the cuts to service.
- We have been able to retain the parts of the service that are the most needed or have altered the method of delivery in a way that fits the modern Gypsy and Traveller lifestyle. (Source - LGA research)
* Equality and Diversity Forum submission to the Government’s Equality Duty Review [April 2013]