The Traveller Health team in Cambridgeshire has been running for 11 years, and aims to provide consistent support to individuals and families from this community and improve health and wellbeing outcomes.
Gypsies and Travellers are widely recognised as being one of the most disadvantaged groups in society and suffer the greatest disparity in all measurable outcomes of wellbeing, including health. The team consists of a senior registered nurse lead, an adult education project officer, an advocacy worker, and a community development practitioner.
The team comprises staff from both Gypsy Traveller ethnicity and non-Gypsy Traveller. The lived experience element of the team is invaluable for the insight and links into the community that they give. They also confer a degree of credibility to the team, both internally with clients and externally with partner agencies. Originally the team was a partnership team with other council teams and a charity, but over time due to ongoing changes those members of the team were transferred into public health
The support offered by the team has many facets and takes multiple forms, from supporting a family to register with a GP, assisting adherence to treatment plans, helping to access tests and screening and discharge planning. The team also delivers support with accessing and managing benefit claims, accessing secure accommodation, and accessing education for both adults and children.
On a strategic level, the team have played a key role in highlighting the strengths and needs within the community, particularly most recently in relation to Covd-19.
During Covid 19 the Traveller Health team in Cambridgeshire had to very quickly develop new ways of working with their clients. Like many others they went from being a service providing outreach health and wellbeing support to clients of Gypsy Traveller ethnicity, to being a remote team in a matter of days, with service delivery completely redesigned.
The adult education offer has been put online, with tutors supporting learners via telephone, talking text and video calls. Other ongoing case work has been completed over the phone and via post. Where contact with clients has been unavoidable, for example to exchange paperwork, this has been done with social distancing measures in place.
One of the most useful developments has been the rolling out of the Facebook page. The team already had a Facebook page but Covid-19 has caused us to make much greater use of this online community. At the start of lockdown the team contacted all our existing and previous contacts asking them to join the group. They also asked that they should share it with their contacts so that they could join too. This has led to the page having in excess of 1000 members. The team have used the page to share public health messages, dispel myths and rumours, deliver a questionnaire and provide education resources. The page has also been used to private message the team by individuals and families seeking support from the team. One person posting in the group said the team were, “good people who tell us what we (the GRT community) need to know”.
This use of social media is something we will definitely pursue in the ‘new normal’, whatever that may be.
Cambridgeshire Traveller Health Team, left to right: Kelly Buckley, Shaynie Larwood-Smith, Rose Wilson, Terri-lee Hawkins
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