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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

NIHE surveys the housing needs of the Irish Traveller community

In 2019, the Housing Executive carried out a survey to help better understand the accommodation needs of the Irish Traveller community in Northern Ireland. The Irish Traveller Accommodation Survey was published in May 2020 and surveyed 540 households, totalling 1,628 individuals.

Accommodation trends

The survey includes questions on “travelling” to understand the extent of nomadism amongst respondents. Only 7% of respondents stated they or a household member plan to travel in the next 3 years, indicating a growing trend for use of bricks and mortar, or settled accommodation amongst Irish Travellers. The majority of respondents  (69% surveyed) resided in social housing, up significantly from the 2014 findings where 49% resided in this housing type. Meanwhile, roughly a tenth of those surveyed in the most recent survey resided on a permanent/serviced NIHE site.  

Satisfaction ratings and inconsistent site standards

70.9% of those surveyed were satisfied with their current accommodation while 18.3% were dissatisfied. Those living in Grouped Housing and private rented accommodation were most likely to be satisfied whereas every individual surveyed living on the emergency halting site, unauthorised sites and transit sites were dissatisfied with their current accommodation. Reasons for satisfaction often include closeness to family and living in a quiet area while reasons for dissatisfaction likely lie in poor housing standards and facilities.

Responses from those surveyed living on NIHE-managed sites show inconsistent and insufficient access to some key services and facilities.  Of the 50 respondents living on these sites, no one said their household had access to on-site play areas for children, more than half did not have access to washing facilities and only 27 felt there was appropriate fire safety.

Access to information and advice

Levels of internet access remain significantly lower amongst the Irish Traveller community compared to the non-Traveller population. The ability of Irish Travellers to access certain forms of help, such as advice websites and online discussion with friends, is impacted by poor standards of digital inclusion.

The Housing Executive remains the most likely place for Irish Travellers to seek advice while far fewer would seek advice from advice services or community organisations.  For those who had difficulties contacting NIHE, reasons included: ‘did not get a response’ and ‘costs money to contact/ visit office’.

Welfare reform

Welfare reform is a significant area of uncertainty for some Irish Travellers. Almost a third said they were not aware of the 2015/2016 changes to the benefit and tax credit system, while another third said they were aware of changes but were unsure as to how they impacted their household. Failure to provide information to Irish Travellers has a disproportionate impact due to their higher uptake of welfare benefits and greater economic vulnerability than the non-Traveller population.

Future Accommodation

The research found that 88.5% of Irish Travellers surveyed had been living in their current accommodation for more than a year. These figures are higher than the percentage of respondents satisfied with their accommodation so indicates some may feel they have little or no choice but to stay in their current accommodation, potentially due to lack of housing options available or known.

There is a small but significant group of private renters surveyed who would prefer to reside in social housing.  However, the overall largest group involved respondents already living in social housing who wish to move within the social housing sector.

Need for stock to address housing needs of new households

Survey responses indicated that members of existing households are likely to form around 150 new households requiring accommodation within the next 5 years.

Most respondents (78%) said that the preferred accommodation type for the new household would be social housing; 14 per cent said permanent/serviced sites and 6 per cent said grouped housing. The survey indicates the increasing uptake of social housing by Irish Travellers will continue and highlights the necessity for expansion of affordable, safe social housing stock.

Household Profiles

Most Irish Travellers surveyed were economically inactive due to family commitments (37%) or sickness/disability (34%) with 6% of respondents being in employment.

There is a clear necessity for adequate provisions and facilities for disability access on sites and in other accommodation for Irish Travellers. Two thirds of respondents said their household contained at least one member with a disability with around 50% of these individuals requiring specially adapted accommodation.

Draft strategy consultation

The Housing Executive has published its Irish Travellers Accommodation Strategy for 2020-2025.

The aims of the strategy are to

  • Address the range of accommodation needs of Irish Travellers;
  • Ensure the provision of adequate and suitable accommodation for Irish Travellers that meets their needs, promotes their equality of opportunity and promotes good relations among Traveller households and between Travellers and other members of the community.

The Housing Executive is undertaking a consultation process on the draft strategy. Responses are invited until 23 September 2020.

Tagged In

Minority Groups, Research

This article was written on 3 July 2020. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.