Traveller Accommodation – Key Statistics
ITM collectively have risen concerns about the non-delivery of Traveller-specific accommodation: the failure of local authorities to draw down finances (when available from the exchequer), lack of oversight of plans and budgets, lack of political will to build Traveller accommodation and lack of sanctions for failing to meet the needs of Travellers.
Our current concerns relate to the significant reduction in capital allocation for the Traveller Accommodation Programmes (it decreased from 70 million in 2008 to €4million in 2015) which means that the plans are doomed to fail unless budgets are increased.
The latest Annual Count figures 2014 from the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government shows that Local Authorities are failing to implement their Traveller Accommodation Programmes which have now entered their fourth round and therefore failure to deliver on the requirements of the National Strategy for Traveller Accommodation.
Inadequate data collection: The annual count 2014 identifies 10,226 Traveller families residing in the Republic of Ireland. However this is a long-standing underestimation, in 2010 the all-Ireland Traveller Health Study estimated the figure at 10,618 families. However, the Department recorded 628 Traveller families in 2002 (the earliest figure available) compared with 10,226 in 2014.
Trends in provision and delivery have emerged over a period analysed by the Irish Traveller Movement 2000-2014 compiled by returns from all Local authorities the Annual Count which confirms the need for an overhaul of the current system overseeing the delivery of Traveller accommodation nationally. The key emerging trends nationally are:
The number in families in private rented accommodation has risen from162 in 2002 to 2,672 in 2014, a difference of 2,551. Compare this to the population rise during the period specific to families from 6,289 to 10,226.
Traveller specific accommodation:
Group housing has only increased from 493 to 732, the number of families in halting sites has steadily decreased from 398 families in 2003 o 945 in 2014, a decrease of 487 families. These figures clearly show Local Authorities’ preference for offering Travellers “private rented” accommodation over “Traveller-specific” accommodation.
Nomadism/ Transient Provision: The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government do not calculate transient accommodation delivery in annual counts. The Report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community (1995) recommended that 1000 transient units of accommodation were needed to accommodate nomadism. This is clearly not being prioritised by local authorities, at present the 49 transient units provided are being used as temporary or emergency accommodation.
Unauthorised Halting sites: In 2014 445 families were living in unauthorised halting sites (increasing from 361 in 2013). These figures had decreased most notably after the introduction of the Criminal Trespass Act (2002) during the period analysed. However the number of families living in unauthorised sites from 2011 has increased annually from 327, 330 to 361, 445. These families are living in conditions that are often unsafe, overcrowded and in most cases lacking in the most basic of facilities, such as water, sanitary and electricity services. Out of the 445 in 2014 there are 263 families had basic services, 182 have no basic services, 126 living on the roadside, 162 living in private gardens or fields and 157 families living on other sites.
Sharing accommodation: In 2014 there are 987 families (accounting for over 2,652 individuals) estimated to be sharing accommodation. This figure has been rising since 2002. Out of the 987 families sharing in 2014 223 sharing permanent bays, 37 sharing basic/transient bays, 727 sharing standard housing, group housing, voluntary housing, private rented, own resources and private houses assisted by council.
The roll-out of Traveller Accommodation Programmes is not meeting the population increase. For example: The total accommodation provided by local authorities over the 2006-2009 period represents an increase of 6% however in this time the Traveller population has increased by 16%.
These worrying trends of increased numbers of families moving into non “Traveller specific” housing, private rented accommodation, coupled with decreased provision of halting sites and general slow delivery throughout the Traveller accommodation programmes has highlighted again the crisis in Traveller accommodation.
Currently 4,104 (families living in private rented, sharing accommodation, unauthorised sites) Traveller family units are required and yet in 2015 there is only €4.3 million available for the capital Traveller Accommodation budget.
The overseeing National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee has no authority to ensure local authorities are meeting their targets in their Traveller Accommodation Plans and no mechanism to impinge sanctions unless the current strategy is reassessed by the Minister. In fact the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance said in its Second Report on Ireland (23 April 2002) that “the fact that no sanctions are provided for in the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 against authorities who do not take measures to provide accommodation for Travellers may weaken its effectiveness.”
How did we develop this analysis?
In March each year the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government publishes the annual figures. The figures are also published in the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee annual report.
The Annual Count predates the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998, and Departmental records are available from 1980, however the format differs to today’s, and it is difficult to therefore compare recent Annual Counts with older ones; for instance, details such as numbers of families in private rented accommodation, own resources or shared housing were not recorded until 2002. The current format of recording figures has not changed since then.