Review of Local Authority Social Workers and Personnel Employed to Assist Travellers with their Accommodation needs
Commissioned by The Housing Agency on behalf of the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Dr Joanne Kelleher, Postdoctoral Fellow, UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice
Dr Angela Palmer, Research Assistant, UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice
Since the mid-1960s, local authorities have employed social workers to support Travellers in meeting their accommodation needs. Since then, the nature and scale of the demands on local authority housing departments have changed and local authorities have taken on new housing responsibilities.
This research involves an independent review of the role of social workers and personnel employed by local authorities specifically to assist Travellers with their accommodation-related issues was commissioned by The Housing Agency. It was commissioned by The Housing Agency on behalf of the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Terms of Reference
- To examine and review the current roles, responsibilities, and functions of social workers (or equivalents) funded by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to assist Travellers with their accommodation-related issues.
- To consider and review the effectiveness of the social work service in local authorities as it relates to assistance provided to members of the Traveller community with accommodation-related issues.
- To make recommendations regarding future service delivery approaches that would best serve the Traveller community in providing assistance with their accommodation needs.
- To consider whether there is a requirement to develop a National Traveller Accommodation Social Work framework.
- To consult with all relevant stakeholders including local and national Traveller organisations.
The following research methods were used to operationalise this research:
- A review of policies, memoranda, and administrative data: including operational guidelines for, and data on local authority social workers and TLOs who work with Travellers on accommodation needs.
- Review of the research literature on social work with Travellers, additional government supports for this community and Travellers’ socio-economic characteristics, culture, and accommodation conditions.
- Online survey of local authority social workers and Traveller liaison officers: the purpose of the survey was to collate information on their professional background, qualifications, job specification, routine duties, professional and career progression and satisfaction, and peer support.
- Request for submissions: this was issued to local authorities and Traveller representative groups using an on-line survey platform. A small number of key questions were asked in the submission form, these related the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the local authority social work service and whether a national framework for this service should be introduced.
- Interviews with relevant stakeholders: these interviews probed the themes that emerged from the results of the online survey.
The local authority social work service was established to provide support for Travellers in the 1960s. The findings of this review indicate that since then levels of unmet accommodation need and disadvantage among Travellers and discrimination against this community have remained high but most other key aspects of the context in which this service operates have changed significantly. The size of the Traveller population has expanded, particularly in urban areas, Traveller community organisation and activism has increased, Travellers have been recognised as an ethnic group by the Irish government and discrimination against Travellers has been outlawed by the Equal Status Acts, 2000-2018. The policy framework for the provision of accommodation to Travellers changed radically following the enactment of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998 and Traveller representatives are now recognised as partners in the implementation of this policy via their role in the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committees.