Blog: Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) to Collaborate with Pavee Point to Ensure the Safety of Travellers and Roma in Ireland during COVID-19

April 8, 2020

By Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre (part of the Roma Civil Monitor in Ireland).

As part of our overall work, Pavee Point is funded to coordinate the Traveller Health Unit which is a structure within the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) which prioritises the health of Travellers and works to address the health inequalities they experience. As part of our own health work, we run a local Traveller Primary Health Care project which employs 16 Travellers; a Men’s Health Initiative; a Drug and Alcohol Programme and a Mental Health Initiative. We also represent Travellers at the National Traveller Health Advisory Forum in the HSE. 

Due to this close working relationship with the HSE, we have been able to influence some of the Health Service Executive (HSE) responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as far as Travellers and Roma in Ireland are concerned.  There has been goodwill, support and collaboration of colleagues in the HSE and other government departments in working with us to ensure that Traveller and Roma health concerns relating to COVID-19 are addressed in an accessible and culturally sensitive manner at this challenging time when the communities are very fearful of the impact of the virus on their families and communities. Our work on COVID-19 has happened at a number of levels:

1. National and regional COVID-19 coordination: 

  • Multiple daily teleconferences with the HSE, Chief Officers and National Office for Social Inclusion.
  • Developing briefing documents for the Chief Officers and the National Office for Social Inclusion.
  • Providing briefing updates for all Traveller Primary Health Care Projects, local Traveller organisations and groups working with Roma.
  • Sought and secured dedicated national COVID-19 contact phone lines for Travellers & Roma for guidance and support in relation to testing etc. The Roma hotline has Romani/Romanian translators available.
  • Monitoring suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 with Travellers and Roma both regionally and nationally, working with our colleagues in the HSE public health to provide regular updates.
  • Participation and contribution to biweekly HSE COVID-19 national teleconferences for Travellers and Roma.
  • Through our work for the Traveller Health Unit we provided a briefing to all Eastern Regional Traveller Health Network projects to support the ongoing work of Traveller Primary Health Care Projects during the crisis.

2. Policy and advocacy

  • Lobbied to ensure Travellers and Roma were included as priority groups for COVID-19 testing which we are delighted to confirm was approved last week. 
  • Developed a national advocacy document for the HSE and local government authorities. We sought support from the Chief Officers, the HSE Social Inclusion Governance Group, Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Housing. The Minister for Housing issued a national circular on March 18 to all local authorities taking into consideration our requests. We continue to monitor the implementation of the circular and are delighted that Dept. of Housing have taken on board our recommendations outlined in our letter to the Minister this week and has restated to the County and City Management Association and the Chief Executives of Local Authorities to make sure they comply with the national circular. It was also clarified with Local Authorities that the intent of the Circular was to cover Travellers living in both authorised and unauthorised accommodation. We also lobbied to ensure a ban on Traveller evictions during the COVID-19 crisis and are delighted that the emergency legislation signed into law by our president on Friday March 27. The emergency law protects Travellers living on the side of the road or Travellers doubling up on sites.

 We are continuing to advocate for:

  • Necessary supports to be identified and put in place for any Roma or Travellers who are advised to self-isolate and do not have the facilities to do so using a mainstreaming and targeting approach. 
  • Representation of Traveller organisations and groups representing Roma on newly established Community Response Forums which are being coordinated and convened by local authorities throughout the country.
  • A humanitarian response & special measures for particularly vulnerable Roma who do not have income and do not meet the Habitual Residence Condition to access social welfare payments.
  • Targeted measures to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on Traveller and Roma education at all levels.
  • Provision of transport for Travellers and Roma to attend COVID-19 testing centres safely without compromising the health of the general public.

3. Developing guidance and resources THUs, Traveller organisations and Traveller Primary Health Care Projects

We have worked closely with the HSE to develop a number of COVID-19 resources for Traveller Health Units, Traveller organisations and Traveller Primary Health Care Projects:

  • HSE National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) adapted checklist for Traveller & Roma organisations 
  • COVID-19 Mitigation Plan template 
  • COVID-19 monitoring sheet to gain a national understanding of the impact on Travellers and Roma

4.  Communications/Social Media

In addition to ensuring regional and national Traveller health networks are provided with guidance and updates, we developed a dedicated space on our website on staying safe from Coronavirus. See webpage; for Traveller-specific videos and podcasts here; Roma videos here. We have used our social media platforms to disseminate key public health messages on physical distancing and stigma. 

We have developed a number of Traveller-specific resources on:

  • Preventing COVID-19
  • Social/physical distancing
  • Pathways for testing 
  • Mental health

We are working closely with the HSE and get public health approval for all resources and videos which takes considerable time and negotiation. We have a number of resources that are currently being developed and will forward them to you once approved.  

These resources are being produced by Pavee Point and Travellers on sites are using mobile phone technology to film footage to complement/illustrate the video content. Our work with Roma adopts a similar model and we have provided training to our peer-led Roma Primary Health Care project on COVID-19 and supported cascading information to the broader Roma community. We have also worked collectively with our national Roma network to ensure national reach of key health messaging and dissemination of Roma resources.

Washing your hands for 20 seconds or more and at regular intervals is one way to stay safe from Coronavirus (COVID-19)

 

Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre is an Irish national NGO committed to the attainment of human rights for Irish Travellers and Roma who, as minority ethnic groups, experience discrimination, racism, social exclusion and marginalisation. It has been involved in the Roma Civil Monitor (RCM) pilot project, and developed monitoring reports on the Roma inclusion policy in Ireland.

The RCM pilot project is carried out for the European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers. It is coordinated by the Center for Policy Studies of the Central European University (CEU CPS), in partnership with the European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO Network), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) and the Roma Education Fund (REF) and implemented with around 90 NGOs and experts from up to 27 member states.

The opinions expressed in these blog posts are the sole responsibility of the authors and/or their organizations. The CEU Center for Policy Studies is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information or opinions contained herein. 

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