Note to Clare LTACC, following meeting on April 6th2017
Prepared by Fiona Neary, External Facilitator.
Firstly, thank-you to the members of the committee for your invitation to attend and facilitate this meeting. This note is intended as a reflection of key issues as they impressed upon me as an external facilitator.
It is evident that there is both a level of good will and also a level of frustration experienced by all members of the committee. The level of frustration could be gauged as quite high. It is interesting to note that the meeting, scheduled for 1 hour, in fact ran for over 2 hours and 30 minutes. The new Chief Executive, Pat Dowling, expressed the high value he places on this committee, the Councils’ commitment to it, and the opportunities now presented by the detailed audit that has recently commenced, and the uplift in the Irish economy.
Council staff present reported that they experience multiple daily contacts from members of the Traveller community in Co Clare regarding housing needs. The council described the significant level of resources they are investing a new audit of Traveller accommodation.
For Travellers and Traveller representatives on the committee there is a high level of concern for families currently living in roadside dwellings, on an on-going basis, without basic sanitation. Aside from this immediate concern there is frustration at the need for a long-term response to what is perceived as a growing crisis in Traveller accommodation needs. A report outlining the current emergency circumstances in Traveller accommodation in County Clare was circulated to the meeting.
Amongst elected representatives there is frustration that roadside dwellings continue, and high concern for the needs of Traveller children, including continuity of attendance in schools for example. There is a high level of support for workable, long-term solutions amongst the elected representatives on the committee.
It is unlikely that any committee, with such shared levels of various frustrations, can continue without significant disengagement by members, unless some shared success is forth-coming. The LTACC is likely therefore at a cross-roads in terms of its’ on-going sustainability, participation, continuity and role.
Current Issues facing LTACC.
It was very helpful that clarification was provided during the course of the meeting that the new audit by Clare County Council is an Audit of the Maintenance of Existing Traveller Accommodation. It is not an Audit of Current Traveller Housing Needs upon which a plan or strategy to address increasing needs can be based. Implementation of this Maintenance Audit, while of great value, will not go address the increasing Traveller Accommodation requirement in the coming 3 to 5 years and beyond. The new Maintenance Audit is in therefore in keeping with the current Clare County Council Traveller Accommodation Programme 2014 -2018, which summarised housing requirements at that time and then described the maintenance of existing traveller accommodation to be undertaken, but did not include proposals or plans for responding to the significant unmet needs which were identified at that time.
With regards to the roadside dwellings, Clare County Council proposes the construction of two new ‘Transient Sites’. It is not clear if this decision included consultation with Clare LTACC, or Traveller representatives. Traveller representatives present objected to the use of ‘Transient Sites’ for long term needs and proposed 3 -4 permanent sites, with some Traveller input into which occupants were likely to deliver the highest level of success of each permanent site. Traveller representatives gave reasons why Transient sites would not be a successful solution.
The response of Clare County Council to this feedback was unclear. It was also unclear, at this meeting, how Transient sites had been identified as a solution to current unmet needs and, on what basis.
Clare County Council communicated its reluctance to provide sanitation to the existing roadside dwellings. With regards to an eviction pending on one of the roadside dwellings, the council advised that no other options are available to those affected other than that they should approach the general homelessness services.
Role of LTACC Going Forward.
It would appear that the current, and foreseeable role, of the Clare LTACC is to engage in on-going meetings while Clare County Council complete the Audit and Implementation of Maintenance of Existing Traveller Accommodation and the construction of two Transient sites, as these are the main activities of Clare County Council for the foreseeable future. It was unclear if these commitments by Clare County Council involved prior consultation or agreement with the LTAAC.
Options for LTACC:
An option exists however for Clare County Council and the LTACC to take a broader, forward looking role including:
- Jointly agree TOR for a Traveller Housing and Social Needs Assessment
- Undertake the Housing and Social Needs Assessment
- Identify short, medium and longer-term solutions to address increasing Traveller Housing Needs
- Seek and commit the funding required towards achieving implementation of the Needs Assessment.
In the absence of under-taking the option above it is unlikely that Co Clare will experience any change, other than further deterioration in the housing needs of the relatively small number Traveller families in the County. In the absence of taking this option it is likely that the status quo, with the associated frustrations experienced by all LTACC members, and an on-going increasing housing crisis, will continue.