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Poverty and poor housing leaves Traveller population similar to that of a developing country

Research from the University of Warwick suggests the Traveller community has become a public health concern with a population profile similar to developing countries.

In a recent paper published in Critical Public Health, Teresa Staniewicz from the University of Warwick’s Sociology department and Marie-Claire Van Hout from the Waterford Institute in Ireland claim poor health in Traveller communities, both in the UK and in Ireland, is due to poverty and inadequate housing, whether mobile accommodation or fixed housing.

Roma and Irish travellers have lower average life expectancy, higher infant mortality and higher levels of nutrition-related illnesses than majority populations.

Dr Staniewicz said: “Roma and Irish Travellers have a distinctive population profile similar to developing countries in terms of a population pyramid, wide at the base indicative of a high birth rate, and a steep narrowing toward the top indicating a young population with high mortality rates.

“ Poor health in the Irish Traveller community is common and attributed to the undermining of traditional Traveller cultures and identities, and centralised in the abolition of stopping places, widespread poverty and sub-standard accommodation.”

Dr Staniewicz gathered data on the Roma and Irish Traveller community from across the UK, and produced a report which contributed to a significant EU-wide Comparative report on housing, for the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights [FRA]. Dr Van Hout contributed to the drafting of the Comparative report.

Dr Staniewicz said that since the article was written, the situation has worsened considerably for such communities in the UK. This is as a direct result of the Coalition government revoking the previously required duty on local authorities, to provide housing needs' assessments at the regional level. She said: “The FRA report however, recognises that fundamental problems such as lack of consultation with roma and Traveller groups, continue to undermine the planning process. With the exception of a few local authority areas, little progress has been made in identifying land and developing system for site delivery.

“What is clear, is that many Roma and Irish Traveller communities live in sub-standard housing, they are exposed to a lack of security of tenure, they face potential forced evictions, and, engage in short-term letting contracts.”

Notes to editors

‘Roma and Irish Traveller housing and health – a public health concern’, Marie-Claire Van Hout and Teresa Staniewicz, Critical Public Health, 2011, 1-15. A copy of the paper is available at:

To speak to Teresa Staniewicz directly, call +44 (0)2476 575291, alternatively contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Press and Communications Manager,, 02476 150868, 07824 540863.