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eight - Below the radar: Gypsy and Traveller self-help communities and the role of the Travellers Aid Trust

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2022

Andrew Ryder
Affiliation:
Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem
Sarah Cemlyn
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
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Summary

Introduction

“Who do they think they are teaching? We were a Big Society long before the government thought of it.”

The quotation that opens this chapter is drawn from an interview undertaken by one of the authors with a Gypsy woman participating in a community development programme. The scathing nature of her response to a question about the impact of ‘Big Society’ initiatives on inclusion opportunities for members of her community is perhaps unsurprising, when we consider the duration of self-help initiatives and that strength of networks within travelling populations over many centuries (Smith and Greenfields, 2013). Despite the centuries-old vibrant culture of self-help among nomadic communities, identified by Okely (1983), and Acton's (1974) characterisation of Romanies’ adaptive techniques and patterns of resilience to poverty and exclusion, in terms of popular discourse, Gypsies and Travellers are cast by service providers as either ‘hard to reach’ or ‘victims’ (Cemlyn et al, 2009), and more likely still are perceived by the general public as the undeserving beneficiaries of welfare payments and state ‘special treatment’ (Powell, 2010; Quarmby, 2013). In this chapter we set out to explore the strengths of Gypsy/Traveller community organisations in challenging exclusion, and the role of agencies – particularly the Travellers Aid Trust (TAT) – in capacity building among community members to assist them in developing evidence-based, culturally appropriate programmes, while providing practical support to small ‘under the radar’ groups entering the fiscal fray and ever-changing world of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in austerity Britain.

McCabe et al (2010), in their review of the literature pertaining to small, ill-funded voluntary sector agencies and community groups (often organised from within the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) sector), propose that the term ‘below, or under, the radar’ has become a shorthand term often applied to loosely constituted community groups undertaking informal or semi-formal activities in the third sector. The Office of the Third Sector guidance paper (2008, p 2), in an early use of the term, noted that the phrase is ‘ungainly, but is the best available terminology for those organisations which are not included in the main national registers … [and] which are not large enough to register with the Charity Commission or Companies House and are perhaps associated more closely with community building and participation than with service delivery’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Hearing the Voices of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities
Inclusive Community Development
, pp. 137 - 154
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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