Lancaster University: Helping Roma families access legal advice

A Lancaster University lecturer’s work with a leading charity specialising in public legal education means a vulnerable group of society will get access to the legal information it needs.

Law for Life’s new Guide to child protection for Roma parents, published with the input from Lecturer in Social Work and Sociology Dr Joanna Kostka, is an essential piece of work to help Roma families navigate the complex system of Children’s Services.

It covers the key elements of the legal framework, the skills needed to fully comply with the child protection requirements and the important procedural changes that happened due to the pandemic.

The guide also offers invaluable insight into the unique challenges that Roma parents face when going through the child protection process to help social workers, lawyers and other professionals working with the families to engage better with them.

The guide is accompanied by a short film and community training.

The motivation to undertake this work stems from a substantial increase in numbers of Roma children in the UK care system in the last five years.

Department for Education statistics show that while the proportion of Gypsy/Roma children in schools in England remained constant from 2017 to 2019, at 0.34% of the population, the proportion of Gypsy/Roma children in need rose from 0.43% to 0.47% and the percentage in local authority care increased from 0.45% to 0.56%*

“Understanding why there has been a disproportionate increase in social work involvement with Gypsy/Roma is complex,” says Dr Kostka.

“However, existing research, frontline casework and data collected by a number of NGOs working with Roma in the UK reveal emerging patterns.

“Historical disadvantages, linguistic barriers and predominantly negative experiences with public services all play significant part.

“However, lack of knowledge about their legal rights and responsibilities have the most profound impact on engagement with social workers and outcomes of the care proceedings. The guide aims to begin to address this problem.”

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