Shelter Scotland to combat homelessness within Forth Valley’s Gypsy Traveller community

Alison Watson

Alison Watson

A new service is to offer support for members of the Gypsy Traveller community in the Forth Valley in an effort to relieve poverty and stop them becoming homeless.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland has been awarded three years of funding from the Scottish Government’s Promoting Equality and Cohesion Fund to employ a specialist advisor to work with one of the most marginalised groups in the country.

The charity has been working with Gypsy Traveller communities in Edinburgh and Lothians for nearly 10 years and says the experience and knowledge gained from that work will be invaluable in helping to create relationships with what can be hard to reach and isolated communities. The Forth Valley service will be modelled on that work.

Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Gypsy Travellers experience high levels of unemployment, high dependency on benefits and low levels of literacy and low use of banking services.

“As welfare is reformed and being increasingly delivered online using self-service websites and direct debit payments, members of the Gypsy Traveller community are being left behind. It’s leading to greater levels of debt and poverty.

“Our service in Forth Valley will build up trusted relationships to help those in council-run camps or in social and privately rented accommodation to access the services they need.”

Alison Watson added: “Gypsy travellers have by far the worst health of any ethnic group in Scotland. To turn that around we need to make sure they have adequate income to cover the costs of council-run camp sites, social housing or privately rented homes.”