A report evaluating a programme aimed at improving Travellers’ access to financial services was launched on Monday, April 25th by the National Traveller Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).

The Key Worker Programme, saw 35 Primary Health Care Workers in 6 regions of Ireland, promote the use of MABS, the CIS and other finance related service providers in their daily role as Traveller Community Health Care Workers within the community.

Highlighted Challenges

At the launch, National Traveller MABS highlighted the challenges faced by Travellers in accessing mainstream financial services, and highlighted how financial stress impacts on mental and physical health.

According to Liz Daly of National Traveller MABS, The Key Worker Programme was developed following recognition by National Traveller MABS that fear of unfamiliar institutions and organisations, existed among many members of the Traveller Community. The importance of word of mouth/ or ‘hearing about’ something from another member of the Community was identified as a powerful means of breaking this fear and was thereby identified as a vital means for any organisation in gaining the trust of the Community.

Speaking at the launch Liz O Brien (Coordinator at Wicklow Primary Healthcare Team) stated “that the additional role for the Traveller Community Health Care Workers of providing financial planning advice compliments rather than adds to their already busy workload”.

Margaret Moorehouse, Traveller Community Health Care Workers from Wicklow detailed examples of how her role as a Key Worker helped clients in financial distress. “Recently I met a young couple living in an apartment and expecting a new baby. They had fallen into arrears, I advised them to go to MABS because they were in danger of being evicted. They were given an appointment the next day, we drew up a budget to clear the arrears, helped them to claim their social welfare entitlements and contacted the landlord who agreed to the plan”.

Angela Black, CEO of the CIB called for greater consistency in relation to the provision of caravan loans by local authorities. While all local authorities are empowered to provide loans to Travellers who live on halting sites for the purchase or upgrading of caravans, very few are currently doing so. She pledged to work to ensure that local authorities put in place transparent systems for assessing tenants for loans, providing loans, and monitoring repayments as well as providing accessible methods of repayment for borrowers.

To tackle financial exclusion within the Traveller Community the report recommends that National Traveller MABS:

  • Explore the viability of placing the Key Worker Programme on a national footing.
  • Develop a comprehensive operating structure for the Key Worker Programme
  • Additional Primary Health Care for Traveller Projects should be invited to participate in the Programme only when Recommendations 1 and 2 have been implemented.

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Published: 28 April 2016