Engagement with the Gypsy and Traveller Community in Milton Keynes
OPM conducted an engagement project on behalf of Milton Keynes Council, to explore issues faced by the Gypsy and Traveller community in Milton Keynes. The purpose of the engagement process was to create and understand a local definition of the Gypsy and Traveller community, to support the creation of an evidence base and needs assessment to inform council policy going forward, and, to build relationships between the council and the Gypsy and Traveller community in Milton Keynes.
What we did
We ran two half day workshops with the group, exploring issues including identity, community needs and council relationships. To recruit participants we used snowball sampling techniques to promote the project within a traditionally hard-to-reach group. Contact was made with both Irish Travellers and English Romany Gypsies and the workshops were attended by 24 Irish Travellers over 2 days.
The workshops were run in an informal manner to maximise engagement. We also avoided text heavy presentations in favour of image based hand-out materials, due to known literacy issues among some group members. Participants responded to this approach extremely well, and it led to a number of deep and interesting discussions. The images helped to focus our conversations on the most important issues. Participants gave positive feedback on the way that the workshops had been run.
During the course of the discussions, participants expressed an interest in taking part in more regular and direct engagement with the council in Milton Keynes. We helped broker conversations between participants and members of the council to identify practical ways in which this could be achieved.
We presented the main findings of the engagement process alongside best practice examples from around the country which had been identified by participants in the workshops to Milton Keynes Council at a special meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, resulting in concrete recommendations the council will be taking forward around housing, health, education and future engagement.