Accommodation is a key issue for Travellers in Offaly. An unprecedented number of Travellers are now residing in temporary and emergency accommodation, B&B’s, on the side of the road and in overcrowded houses due to being homeless and without a long term housing tenure. Supporting Travellers in Offaly around a range of accommodation issues continues to be one of OTM’s most challenging areas of work.
Under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 local authorities are obliged to adopt a Traveller Accommodation Programme (TAP) for their area to meet the existing and projected accommodation needs of Travellers. Accommodation for Travellers is provided across a range of options and includes standard local authority housing, private rented accommodation, private housing assisted by local authorities or voluntary organisations and Traveller-specific accommodation. Traveller-specific accommodation includes group housing schemes and halting sites.
Despite legal obligations regarding Traveller-specific accommodation placed on local authorities through the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, there are still Traveller families living on the roadside without basic facilities available to them such as; refuse collection, running water, toilets, bath or showers, access to electricity and fire precautions. Living in these conditions greatly reduces the life expectancy of the Traveller community, which is now comparable to that of the settled community in the 1950′s. Studies have shown that there is a critical link between improved accommodation for Travellers and better uptake of education, health and employment services; in addition, better serviced accommodation is an important factor in alleviating the serious hostility and discrimination shown to Travellers by many in the settled community.
In the past the Offaly TAP plans have not taken into consideration the population growth over the lifespan of the plan. Travellers tend to marry young and young couples often wish to live alongside their extended families but are unable to due to a lack of bays/units/houses available. Young Travellers face extreme discrimination in the private rented sector.
Offaly Traveller Movement currently employs 2 part time accommodation workers who deal with a high volume of referrals for support regarding housing issues.
Role of the Accommodation worker in Offaly Traveller Movement:
- 1:1 support/advocacy/advice to individuals and families throughout County Offaly on accommodation issues
- Organising information workshops concerning Traveller accommodation in County Offaly
- Working in partnership with a range of statutory and community agencies in relation to Traveller accommodation
- Actively participating on the Offaly Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee (LTACC)
- Contributing to national and local Traveller accommodation policy
- Advocating and lobbying for Traveller accommodation needs at local and national level
- Actively promoting Traveller human rights
- Raising awareness and knowledge of services in Offaly by providing information through an outreach service to Traveller community on accommodation needs
- Logging discrimination cases to the European Network against Racism (ENAR) Ireland
- Providing information through “drop in centres” to Travellers living in Offaly
- Supporting Travellers to access local accommodation services
- Linking service providers with families