Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News Shorts & Other Busyness

Traveller Benefit Census

Squall 8, Autumn 1994, pg. 9.

“THE last census in April 1994 showed the number of travellers registered in our offices had fallen to 1,273. This is the lowest number recorded so far and almost 400 less than a similar period in 1993,” claims a leaked internal memorandum from the Department of Employment, dated September 7th 1994.

The memorandum, sent to Employment Service business managers round the country, is requesting another census on new travellers claiming benefit, in order to gather further information to be used to put even more pressure on travelling communities. Previously leaked Benefit Agency documents have clearly requested that local DSS offices single out “New Age Travellers” to be “scrutinised carefully”.

The information gathered is being sent to the Department of Employment and is also available to the police. The combination of this information and that gathered by the police under Operation Snapshot, have provided authorities with the opportunity to culturally cleanse this country of travellers, by making it as difficult as possible for them to claim benefit. Information on the movement and resting places of travellers have also provided police with the target at which to aim harassment and illegal evictions.

The leaked memorandum continues: “This develops the tendency found in the census last April for travellers to settle, more or less permanently, in one area. This may be due to the strategy employed by the police this year or simply a change in travellers’ lifestyles. Whatever the case, it does give the Employment Service increased opportunity to make sure that new age travellers meet their responsibilities and that their compliance is rigorously tested.”

An Employment Service spokeswoman said this latest census was the fifth in two years and contains a category description of travellers, aiming to make them recognisable by local DSS offices. The criteria include distinctive clothes, hairstyles, and living conditions (caravans, converted buses and benders).

Not content to wait for the Criminal Justice Bill to come into force, the Government are eradicating travellers quietly and in ways that pass unnoticed even by civil rights campaigners; busy as they are fighting the Bill and all its works.