Good Relations between Settled Communities and Gypsies/Travellers a strategy prepared by the Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire Gypsy/Traveller Issues Working Party




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Good Relations between Settled Communities and Gypsies/Travellers
A Strategy prepared by the Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire Gypsy/Traveller Issues Working Party

INTRODUCTION


Over recent years, the geographic areas of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire have encountered a number of situations involving the presence of unauthorised encampments which have resulted in an increase in tension between the Settled Community and Gypsies/Travellers.
The encampments have been established for a variety of reasons, including pressure created by inadequate site provision in Aberdeen City and no provision in Aberdeenshire.
In November 2010, Alex Neil MSP (Minister for Housing & Communities) established a Working Party comprising individuals and representatives of the key organisations responsible for this complex area of public life to bring about sustainable improvements (See membership at ANNEX 2). The Working Party adopted the following statement as its remit:

Our objective is to improve community relations by ensuring that issues relating to unauthorised Gypsy/Traveller encampments in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire experienced during 2010 are resolved and / or mitigated to the extent that incidents are significantly reduced”

PURPOSE
The purpose of this interim strategy is to improve and sustain community relations through action that can be supported by all parties (individuals, politicians, public authorities, representative organisations, Gypsies/Travellers and local communities), and in a manner underpinned by improved communication, respect and understanding.
In so doing, it seeks to identify the actions required to address the legitimate concerns of the settled community and to improve options available to Gypsies/Travellers visiting the area.

CONTEXT
Historically, Aberdeenshire and the city of Aberdeen itself have been closely associated with the seasonal movements of Gypsies/Travellers. In recent years a number of factors have come together which have, at times, challenged the ability of Gypsies/Travellers to pursue their traditional way of life and have sometimes impacted on members of settled communities.


Relevant factors include:-

  • A reduction in the number of encampment options for Gypsies/Travellers, with the progressive closure of sites historically used by them and a lack of official provision in the area.

  • The availability of seasonal employment, and an increase in year-round employment options in the area.

  • An increase in the numbers of Gypsies/Travellers (including those from further afield) being attracted into the area.

  • Changes to traditional farming methods, lifestyles and previous broad acceptance of short-term arrangements for encampments of Gypsies/Travellers.

  • Increased housing development sometimes affecting encampment options.

  • Increased knowledge and awareness of human rights and related obligations placed on public agencies (primarily the Police Service and Local Authorities).

  • Increased obligations on local authorities when considering potential locations for permanent camping and temporary halting sites e.g. better access to facilities and consequently closer proximity to settled communities.

THE STRATEGY


Our objective is to improve community relations by ensuring that issues relating to unauthorised Gypsy/Traveller encampments in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire experienced during 2010 are resolved and / or mitigated to the extent that incidents are significantly reduced”
It is vital that the principle of improving and sustaining community relations is “embedded” in all actions that flow from this strategy document.
Detailed below are the Key Themes which have informed the Working Party’s discussions and considerations. Flowing from these Key Themes are the Actions (see ANNEX 1) which have been agreed by the Working Party and are considered important short term measures capable of reducing and/or mitigating the degree of tension experienced over recent months.
A number of longer term actions are also specified which the Working Party wish to see taken forward in order that initial gains can be consolidated, and that better outcomes can be delivered for all those with an interest in bringing about lasting improvement in this important aspect of Scottish cultural life.

Key Themes:


A. Improve community liaison and mediation arrangements.
B. Enhance current site provision and capacity.
C. Improve communications between key public authorities, i.e. Councils and Police Services.
D. Improve operational procedures to deliver the most effective response to situations as they arise.
E. Identify and share good/best practice.
F. Identify key elements of a long term strategy to consolidate initial gains, and future planning for improved community relations.
March 2011

THEME A: Improve community liaison and mediation arrangements ANNEX 1





Outcome

Actions

Organisation*

Timescale

1

Improved liaison and communication with local settled communities

a. Review and confirm arrangements for engagement through Community Councils; Residents’ Groups; Businesses etc

b. Organise targeted engagement meetings designed to allow affected communities to discuss concerns and feed into resolutions

c. Review current Service Level Agreement that Aberdeenshire Council has with the Grampian Racial Equality Council

d. Identify key contacts and secure representation from settled communities on quarterly Inter-Agency Group



ACC; AC; Police

AC; ACC; Police; MSPs


AC; GREC

ACC; AC


May 2011

May 2011


May 2011

May 2011


2

Improved liaison and communication with visiting G/Ts

a. Review and confirm procedure for early contact with G/Ts

b. Identify key contacts, and bring forward arrangements for G/T representation on quarterly Inter-Agency Group

c. Encourage and facilitate G/T tenants meetings


ACC; AC; Police
ACC; AC

AC; ACC


May 2011
May 2011

ongoing


3

Improved organisational responsiveness.

a. Confirm arrangements within each organisation for effective inter-departmental communication and sharing of information about unauthorised encampments.

b. Hold regular/quarterly Inter-Agency Group meetings as required.



ACC; AC; Police

ACC; AC; Police




May 2011

Ongoing


4

Improved use of mediation

a. Specify mediation training requirement

b. Design and deliver initial mediation training module



ACC; AC; Police

Article 12; SG



May 2011

May 2011


5

Improved understanding of G/T culture and a reduction in prejudice

a. Regular engagement with appropriate community groups, schools and businesses.

b. Consider impact of negative language, stereotypes and press reporting with a view to promoting more positive images and messages



ACC; AC; Police; GREC; Article 12

All


Ongoing
Ongoing

6

Effective Media Strategy

a. Review and confirm media liaison arrangements.

b. Joint media handling strategy developed including key principles and practices that underpin it e.g. use of language; early contact; sharing information;



Police; ACC; AC
Police; AC; ACC


May 2011
June 2011

*Key: AC - Aberdeenshire Council ACC – Aberdeen City Council

Police – Grampian Police GREC – Grampian Racial Equality Council

Article 12 – Article 12 in Scotland MSPs – Members of the Scottish Parliament

SG – The Scottish Government G/T – Gypsy/Traveller (G/Ts – Gypsies/Travellers)

THEME B: Enhance current site provision and capacity





Outcome

Action

Organisation

Timescale

1

Increased site provision available in the North East for G/Ts

a. Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council to jointly deliver additional transit site at Clinterty.

b. Confirm potential to utilise Council owned land for additional provision with reference to local Development Plans

c. Develop options for further jointly funded and managed projects.

d. Deal effectively with planning applications for sites submitted by G/Ts subject to compliance with planning policies etc



ACC; AC; SG

AC; ACC


AC; ACC; SG
AC; ACC

May 2011

June 2011

Ongoing
March 2011



2

Development of feasibility plan designed to deliver network of transit sites ( 4 or 5 ) in Aberdeenshire in the longer term consistent with Local Development Plan

a. Initiate feasibility and action required including: necessary negotiation with landowners; planning considerations; and consultation with settled communities and where possible, G/T representatives.

AC; ACC

Article 12



June 2011 and Ongoing

3

Effective, fair and balanced application of Councils’ policies on the Management of Unauthorised Encampments to reduce pressure on most sensitive locations.

a. Complete analysis of known “Unauthorised Encampments” (and basis for their continued use) in order to facilitate effective responsive management, and/or access to most sensitive locations.

AC

June 2011 and Ongoing

4

Agreed approach for Aberdeenshire Council’s G/T site at Greenbanks, Banff

a. Consider options and subsequently implement outcome of the Council’s Option Review for the future management of the G/T site at Greenbanks, Banff

AC

May 2011

5

Support for G/T ownership and management of G/T sites.

.


a. Develop or commission feasibility work into opportunities and considerations for G/T ownership of sites in the Grampian area.

b. Bring forward options for a “pilot site”



All

AC; ACC


October 2011

Nov 2011




THEME C: Improve communications within and between key public authorities





Outcome

Action

Organisation

Timescale

1

Roles and responsibilities of public agencies clearly stipulated

a. Liaison protocol between Councils and Grampian Police to be completed and made publicly available

b. Confirm that internal communication processes are in place and effective (including Trading Standards and Waste Management)

c. Confirm potential for regular liaison and engagement with regional Procurators Fiscal and Sheriffs


AC; ACC; Police

AC; ACC; Police

AC; ACC; Police


May 2011

May 2011


May 2011

2

Improved access to and sharing of information across organisations

a. Council’s and Police to jointly explore and report on further opportunities for data sharing

b. Liaise with Police to ensure effective involvement in completion of Encampment Assessment Process

c. Confirm early intervention protocol

d. The North East Inter-agency G/T Working Group to continue to meet bi-monthly



Police; AC; ACC
AC; ACC

AC; ACC; Police

AC; ACC; Police; GREC


June 2011
May 2011

May 2011


Ongoing


THEME D: Improve operational procedures to deliver the most effective response to situations as they arise





Outcome

Action

Organisation

Timescale

1

Clear and consistent application of procedures relating to Unauthorised Encampments.

a. Councils to jointly review (and revise as necessary), existing policies, procedures and protocols on the Management of Unauthorised Encampments

b. Councils to design and deliver joint staff training and awareness programmes (from general awareness to specific training for front-line practitioners)

c. Clear lines of communication to be established to assist closer joint working.


AC; ACC; Police

AC; ACC; Police


AC; ACC; Police; Article 12; GREC



May 2011

May 2011

May 2011


2

Clarify application of the Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 and the use of Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

a. Grampian Police (and ACPOS) to pursue potential for clarification from Lord Advocate/Crown Office ref: the ‘presumption against prosecution’

Police; (ACPOS);

SG


ASAP


3

Improved targeting of resources on known and/or anticipated challenges

a. Police and Councils to consider and report on potential to apply operational time and resources more directly to known or anticipated problem areas and/or individuals.

Police; ACC; AC

May 2011

4

Improved understanding and awareness of G/T needs

a. Confirm operational engagement between GTLO and GREC to ensure that effective management of the health and welfare requirements of visiting Gypsy Travellers.

ACC; AC

May 2011

THEME E: Identify and share good/ best practice.





Outcome

Action

Organisation

Timescale

1

Increased awareness, and where appropriate, application of best practice from elsewhere, ensuring consistency and effectiveness of approaches to Unauthorised Encampments

a. Establish short life project to investigate and report on examples of good practice in relation to the management of Unauthorised Encampments and Transit Sites

b. Continuation of North East Inter-agency Group.



AC; ACC; GREC

AC; ACC; GREC




June 2011

Ongoing


2

Produce Best Practice Guide

a. SG officials to liaise with CoSLA and representatives from G/T and community groups regarding the development and publication of Best Good Practice Guide

SG

Ongoing

3

Better awareness amongst elected members


a. Link the re-launch of Council’s policy on unauthorised encampments with further training and familiarisation for elected members.

ACC

May 2011

Ongoing



THEME F: Identify key elements of a long term strategy to consolidate initial gains and future planning for improved community relations.





Outcome

Action

Organisation

Timescale

1

Network of transit sites developed in the North East

a. Development of transit sites through the Local Development Plan/Planning process

AC; ACC

After 2012

2

Reduction in the requirement for unauthorised encampments


a. Continue to bring forward proposals for increasing capacity through the development of new and/or existing sites

AC; ACC

Ongoing

3

Maintenance of good community relations

a. Produce/Publish joint annual review of experience and approaches deployed during previous 12 months with regard to unauthorised encampments.

AC; ACC; Police; GREC

Ongoing

4

Sensitive Areas Policy

a. Each Council to consider adoption of policy for known sensitive areas where unauthorised encampments can create disproportionate tension

AC; ACC




5

Reduction in costs associated with unauthorised encampments

a. Develop joint management arrangements (between Councils) for transit sites and unauthorised encampments .

b. Production of “Good Neighbour” guides for visiting G/Ts.



AC; ACC

AC; ACC


Ongoing

Ongoing


6

G/T Participation

a. Encourage employment of G/Ts e.g. for new caretaker post at Clinterty.

b. Facilitate G/Ts’ participation in developments



ACC; AC
Article 12 in

Scotland


Ongoing
Ongoing



ANNEX 2

Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire Gypsy Traveller Issues Working Party

Chair

Alex Neil MSP, Minister for Housing and Communities


Brian Adam MSP

Nigel Don MSP


Aberdeen City Council

Councillor Aileen Malone

Donald Urquhart , Head of Housing and Community Safety

Amanda Farquhar, Gypsy/Traveller Liaison Officer

Sandra Wood, Senior Housing Assistant
Aberdeenshire Council

Councillor Jim Gifford

David Cooper, Environmental Health Specialist Officer
Grampian Police

Inspector James Hume


Equalities & Human Rights Commission

Mr Chris Oswald, Head of Policy & Parliamentary Affairs


Article 12 Scotland

Ms Lynne Tammi, National Co-ordinator







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