Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee On Key Issues Affecting The Traveller Community
Traveller Mental Health: Discussion (Resumed)
I need to get out of here fairly fast as I have to get into the Dáil by 1 o'clock.
The issue of social distance or separation or whatever one wants to call it is significant. I see it all the time. One of the challenges for the settled community is to create genuine friendships with people in the Traveller community. It should not be on an up-down but on an even level. It should be that they are just my friends. That is the number one thing we need to break down. That is not the way it is working at the moment, however. How much does the delegation believe this is a major problem, psychologically, sociologically and every other way?
The figures concerning mental health issues in the Traveller community are horrendous. I personally come across this all time in my constituency clinics. I often have constituents telling me about a family member who is suffering mental health issues.
I see the certificates and so on that go with that. Housing is the number one issue people come to me about. People talk to me about education and other issues but housing is number one at the moment because there are no houses and Travellers fare much worse in the housing system than anybody else. They cannot get the housing assistance payment, HAP, and are much more likely to wind up in homelessness. Underlying all of this, mental health keeps coming up because we then have to provide letters to the local authorities. Prevention is much better than cure. Obviously, treatment must be appropriate but let us see how we can reduce the numbers who must get treatment because we are dealing with the issues that cause this problem. It seems we are coming to social distance, housing and lack of employment. If a person does not have housing and has very little resources, looking after children with disabilities becomes a double burden that puts significant pressure on people. The cultural distance to which I have alluded is another factor.
I believe prejudice is getting worse. I thank Peter Casey for one thing. He highlighted a reality in Irish life.