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High Court rules local authority must support Traveller child with Down’s syndrome when travelling

Equality Human Rights Commission logoThe High Court has ruled that a local authority must support a child with Down’s syndrome and complex medical needs from a Traveller family, even when his family are working in other parts of Britain.

The case involved Child J, who is 3 years old and part of a travelling Roma Gypsy family who run a helter skelter and bungee trampoline at fairs around England and Wales during the summer. In winter the family stay with J’s grandfather, in Malvern, Worcestershire.

Worcestershire County Council assessed J, whose father is a seventh generation fairground traveller and mother is from a circus family, and agreed to fund nursery care for him while he was in their area, but said it was unable to provide services for him while the family were travelling.

The child’s family argued that the Council’s decision not to provide services outside of its borders failed to consider their culture or lifestyle and the High Court agreed.

Judge Mr Justice Holman said that it was unrealistic for J to access services from scratch every time the family moved into another local authority’s area.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) gave expert advice in discrimination and human rights law as a third party, including pointing to its own research that highlighted the inequalities faced by Gypsies and Travellers (who are recognised as a protected racial group under the Equality Act 2010) especially in relation to health care and education and said Worcestershire County Council had power under the law to meet J’s needs.

Mr Justice Holman said: “Everyone loves a funfair. They are part of the tapestry of our national life. But there would be no funfairs without the travelling families who own the rides and amusements, erect them, man them, and then take them onto the next pitch.”

He acknowledged the case was of importance to all local authorities and travelling families. “It must be a hard life and a hard working one, but it is a good life and an honourable one, which brings fun and joy to many people,” he added.

He ruled that Worcestershire County Council was able to exercise its power outside of its area and should continue funding any provision it had put in place for the child.

Wendy Hewitt, EHRC legal director, said: “We are very pleased that the High Court has recognised that travelling forms a core part of this family’s culture and they bring pleasure to many people with their funfairs.

“The Commission’s own research has found that Gypsy and Traveller families experience considerable inequalities and are one of the most deprived groups in Britain.

“This important ruling means that this little boy, and others in similar situations, can now continue their traditional way of life without fearing the loss of essential services to meet their health and educational needs.”

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