SPOT­LIGHT ON WEX­FORD’S TRAV­ELLERS BREN­DAN KEANE

EX­AM­INES A RE­PORT COM­MIS­SIONED BY WEX­FORD CO COUN­CIL THAT HIGH­LIGHTS IS­SUES FAC­ING THE LO­CAL TRAV­ELLER COM­MU­NITY BUT REACHES A POS­I­TIVE CON­CLU­SION

Gorey Guardian - - NEWS -

THE Trav­eller pop­ula- tion in County Wex­ford is youth­ful, with 43.8 per cent un­der the age of 20, ac­cord­ing to a re­port es­pe­cially com­mis­sioned by Wex­ford County Coun­cil. The Needs Anal­y­sis of [the] Trav­eller com­mu­nity in Co Wex­ford (NATCW) re­port was com­piled by Dublin based Brian Har­vey So­cial Re­search (BHSR), in con­junc­tion with the Wex­ford Trav­eller In­ter-agency Group (TIG).

In the re­port Wex­ford County Coun­cil comes out favourably in many ways with it be­ing de­scribed as a ‘model county’ for a lo­cal au­thor­ity work­ing with Trav­ellers.

The com­pre­hen­sive re­port, which based a lot of its statis­tics on the 2016 cen­sus, re­vealed that the Trav­eller age pro­file falls be­low the na­tional av­er­age when it comes to peo­ple in their 40s and only .7 per cent of Trav­ellers live to or past the age of 80.

The high­est age cat­e­gory within the Co Wex­ford Trav­eller com­mu­nity in 2016 was 10 to 19 - which ac­counted for 22.4 per cent of the county’s en­tire Trav­eller pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port Trav­ellers tend to have larger fam­i­lies with 15.8 per cent of house­holds hav­ing six or more fam­ily mem­bers com­pared to the na­tional pop­u­la­tion av­er­age of 4.4 per cent.

In Co Wex­ford there is a higher per­cent­age of mar­ried cou­ples with chil­dren (51.3 per cent) within the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity than there is within the gen­eral set­tled pop­u­la­tion (31.1 per cent).

Wex­ford also has a very sta­ble Trav­eller pop­u­la­tion with 96.8 per cent re­main­ing within the county which is a higher fig­ure than within the set­tled com­mu­nity, how­ever, when it comes to school­ing 54 per cent of Wex­ford’s Trav­ellers have only pri­mary or no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion while just 16.6 per cent have lower sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.

Only 4.1 per cent of Trav­ellers achieved up­per sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion while less than six went on to non-de­gree third level ed­u­ca­tion.

The pro­por­tion of peo­ple within the com­mu­nity who have only pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion or none at all is five times higher than the av­er­age within the rest of the pop­u­la­tion.

The rate of Trav­ellers with a third level ed­u­ca­tion was deemed by Mr Har­vey as be­ing ‘so low as to be in­signif­i­cant’. The re­port also in­di­cated that 17.3 per cent of Trav­eller chil­dren left school ei­ther be­fore or by the time they reached 12-years-of-age and 34.6 per cent left be­fore they were 17-years-old.

The gen­eral na­tional fig­ure for chil­dren leav­ing school be­fore 15 is 8.7 per cent, how­ever, within the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity the fig­ure is 35.9 per cent.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Har­vey’s re­port Trav­ellers are at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage in terms of pro­fes­sional ca­reer op­tions es­pe­cially when it comes to knowl­edge or use of the Ir­ish lan­guage; only 15 per cent of Trav­ellers in Wex­ford over the age of 3 can speak Ir­ish while the na­tional pop­u­la­tion av­er­age within the same age group is 39 per cent.

A third of early years ser­vices through­out Co Wex­ford have Trav­eller chil­dren at­tend­ing with those lo­cated in ur­ban and com­mu­nity set­tings hav­ing the most take-up.

Over the last seven years the num­ber of Trav­eller chil­dren at­tend­ing pri­mary school peaked at 494 but has since dropped back to 441.

How­ever, the num­ber of sec­ondary school stu­dents from within the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity rose sharply since the school year 2009-2010 and has in­creased steadily since.

For the school year 2017-2018, there were 108 Trav­ellers en­rolled in ETB schools in Wex­ford which was an at­ten­dance rate of around 70 per cent based on the av­er­age num­ber of stu­dents at­tend­ing in gen­eral.

A QQI 3 culi­nary skills course in New Ross had one of the high­est num­bers of Trav­eller at­ten­dees with 10 young fe­males on the course.

A sim­i­lar num­ber of fe­male stu­dents also at­tended a wed­ding arts and crafts course in Wex­ford while in Bun­clody 11 fe­males at­tended an in­tro­duc­tion [to] hair, nails and skin course.

Five fe­males par­tic­i­pated in a lit­er­acy course run by the Tem­ple­shan­non Fam­ily Par­ents Group while six males at­tended a dig­i­tal lit­er­acy and lit­er­acy course in Tagh­mon.

In ad­di­tion to at­ten­dees of the afore­men­tioned Trav­eller-spe­cific cour­ses a fur­ther 30 stu­dents from within the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity at­tended ‘generic’ ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses with adult lit­er­acy ini­tia­tives re­ceiv­ing the big­gest take-up (14) fol­lowed by Youthreach (12) while two ad­di­tional fe­males re­spec­tively at­tended a sport and re­cre­ation Level 5 course and a QQI 5 busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion course.

The re­port re­vealed that 21.5 per cent of Trav­ellers in Wex­ford are em­ployed within the cat­e­gory ‘man­agers and pro­pri­etors’.

Trav­ellers also had 7.5 per cent rep­re­sen­ta­tion within the busi­ness and pub­lic sec­tor cat­e­gories and 10.3 per cent in the skilled con­struc­tion sec­tor.

When it comes to trans­port the pro­por­tion of Trav­ellers with only one car (70.5 per cent) is around the twice the na­tional av­er­age while the per­cent­age with­out any car at all is be­low the na­tional fig­ure.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port the most com­mon means of travel is by foot (21.3 per cent) while the num­ber of Trav­ellers who use vans for trans­port is low (4.6 per cent).

Around 50.6 per cent of Trav­ellers said their main mode of trans­port is as a pas­sen­ger in a car while just 4.4 per cent said they drive cars.

Only 13.2 per cent of Trav­ellers own a com­puter which is very low com­pared to the na­tional pop­u­la­tion av­er­age (68.4 per cent) and only 19.6 per cent have ac­cess to broad­band.

‘The Trav­eller com­mu­nity is clearly at a huge dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to oth­ers in the cur­rent in­for­ma­tion age,’ stated Mr Har­vey in the re­port.

De­spite be­ing a rel­a­tively young pop­u­la­tion con­cern­ing statis­tics arose in the re­port with re­gard to health and well-be­ing with the over­all dis­abil­ity level within the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity, at 19.1 per cent, be­ing higher than the na­tional fig­ure (13.5 per cent).

In the area of dis­abil­i­ties 10.5 per cent of the Trav­el­ling pop­u­la­tion in Wex­ford have chronic ill­ness while 7.7 per cent have a phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tion.

Re­gard­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion, 84.8 per cent of Trav­ellers in Co Wex­ford live in houses while 9.5 per cent are in tem­po­rary hous­ing and in 2017 there were 163 fam­i­lies in lo­cal au­thor­ity stan­dard ac­com­mo­da­tion through­out the county while a fur­ther 45 fam­i­lies were in lo­cal au­thor­ity group schemes.

Pri­vate, rented ac­com­mo­da­tion ac­counted for 132 fam­i­lies while 31 lived in pri­vate, lo­cal au­thor­ity as­sisted homes.

The re­port also showed that through­out the county 215 fam­i­lies own their homes and 14 live on halt­ing sites; how­ever, 46 fam­i­lies were shar­ing with rel­a­tives, 53 fam­i­lies were liv­ing on unau­tho­rised sites and 99 fam­i­lies were with­out ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The re­port in­di­cated a sig­nif­i­cant shift in pat­terns of ac­com­mo­da­tion with far less Trav­ellers now liv­ing on the road­side but with a shortage of lo­cal au­thor­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion which is the pre­ferred op­tion within the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity - a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber have moved into pri­vate rented ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The re­port also re­vealed that 73.7 per cent of Trav­ellers have ac­cess to a mains pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply while 3.3 per cent had no ac­cess to wa­ter.

The same per­cent­age had no cen­tral heat­ing and Mr Har­vey sug­gested there is a high risk of fuel poverty and ac­cord­ingly a higher win­ter mor­tal­ity rate.

The re­port cul­mi­nated with a num­ber of spe­cial Trav­eller-rel­e­vant needs be­ing iden­ti­fied with dif­fi­cul­ties get­ting served in pubs in En­nis­cor­thy and New Ross high­lighted as be­ing ar­eas of con­cern.

Speed­ing in Tagh­mon also needs to be ad­dressed along with a need for bus ser­vices to hospi­tals.

The re­port also iden­ti­fied a need for the lo­cal au­thor­ity to re­spond to hous­ing prob­lems quickly and it also high­lighted a need for the set­tled com­mu­nity, gen­er­ally, to show re­spect for Trav­ellers.

In that re­gard spe­cific ref­er­ence was made to ho­tels, restau­rants, su­per­mar­kets and shop­keep­ers, who close dur­ing Trav­eller fu­ner­als.

How­ever, the re­port also ac­knowl­edged there are ser­vices in Wex­ford that meet a range of Trav­eller needs.

In sum­mary it in­di­cated the Trav­eller com­mu­nity in Co Wex­ford is sit­u­ated in five main lo­ca­tions: New Ross; En­nis­cor­thy; Bun­clody; Wex­ford and Clon­roche, with smaller groups in Gorey and Tagh­mon.

‘The de­mo­graphic pro­file shows that it is a youth­ful pop­u­la­tion, di­min­ish­ing rapidly in num­bers from age 50, and few liv­ing to old age,’ con­cluded Mr Har­vey in the re­port.

The prin­ci­pal need within the com­mu­nity is ac­cess to and take up of ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties while men­tal health aware­ness and well-be­ing are other ma­jor ar­eas of need iden­ti­fied in the re­port.

It was also noted that ‘there is a base of good prac­tice in Wex­ford’ in terms of try­ing to ad­dress the needs of Trav­ellers.

In con­clu­sion the re­port noted: ‘Wex­ford is well placed to be­come leader of a com­mu­nity of good prac­tice among lo­cal author­i­ties work­ing with Trav­ellers with the TIG the nat­u­ral leader of such a com­mu­nity, mak­ing Wex­ford a ‘model county’ for a lo­cal au­thor­ity work­ing with Trav­ellers.’

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