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Moving into houses bad for health of travellers

 

Living in a house can have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of gypsy travellers, MSPs have been told.

 

Being moved into flats or houses by local authorities often left them feeling isolated and stigmatised, members of the travelling community said.

Those living on permanent sites also had battles with councils to improve basic amenities such as electricity and water.

A group of gypsy travellers met with members of the Equal Opportunities Committee at Holyrood for a round-table discussion on issues such as health and social care.

Traveller Roseanna McPhee said: “If you are in a house, you are generally isolated and you are cut off from your own culture.

“For people living in those conditions, if they can’t talk to someone when something goes wrong, it is obviously going to have an impact on their health and their mental health.”

Ms McPhee said there was still stigma attached to the traveller way of life and described how despite working in further education, she had not received any work in the public sector after moving from a flat to a caravan.

Another traveller, Shamus McPhee, said: “Once you are placed on a site you become effectively part of a ghetto. You are stigmatised. You can’t find employment. You don’t have opportunities. That leads to mental health issues and negatively impacts on your well-being.”

Fiona Townsley told the committee she had spent the last ten years fighting to get improvements from the local council at the site where she lives, and it had affected her health.

“I’ve been told that if I want something better, I should get myself a house,” she said.

“It shouldn’t be that way, that I have to go into a house, change my circumstances, change my way of life just to get a better living standard.”

Nationalist MSP Stuart McMillan said evidence suggested that “local authorities appear to think that if they put a traveller in a house then that’s the issue resolved, in terms of the accommodation”.

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