Messages from Practice


TRAIN has been working to support Traveller and Romani families who are experiencing child protection involvement since 2015. It was set up to respond to urgent need and because no other specific support for Traveller and Romani children and families in child protection existed in the UK.

Since 2015, TRAIN has been providing free telephone advice and support to parents whose children are in need, at risk, or are in the care system, and with members of the wider family or community who are raising children unable to remain at home. TRAINs main aim has been working on  capacity building to help Traveller and Romani communities to help themselves. TRAIN has always been managed by two volunteer social workers and each year the work that TRAIN has been involved in has grown. In 2017, for example, TRAIN provided help and support to 61 families. TRAIN enabled people's voices to be heard, and it has enabled the situation of child protection to reconsidered and to be taken seriously. Whilst advocating for one family a Judge made it clear that without TRAINs involvement the outcome of Care Proceedings would have been quite different.  

Today a growing number of organisations are beginning to see and exploit the need to provide help and support to families in matters related to child protection. There is now money available to organisations so that they can fund advocates, online media tools, training videos and information services and all of the other things that TRAIN has been providing. What TRAIN has done for the last 3 years on a free and voluntary basis, other well meaning organisations are now receiving payment to do as well. For this reason, the work that TRAIN has been championing has come to a natural end. 

The fact that more organisations are working to support Traveller and Romani families who are experiencing child protection services is fantastic. As many of these organisations are also grassroots Traveller and Romani Community groups, TRAIN's aim to work on capacity building to help Traveller and Romani communities to help themselves has seemingly been achieved, not through consultation though, but by example, innovation and leadership.  

TRAIN hopes that those people who found the strength to ask for help in the past will enable others in the future to speak out about the situation that they are in and to seek support early and without delay. It hopes that other well meaning funded services are able to understand and cope with the complexity of child protection policy, and it hopes that the new organisations taking over TRAIN's role are sufficiently knowledgeable and skilled to spot and challenge procedural irregularity and to fight for natural justice, without compromise, in a way that Traveller and Romani families urgently require and deserve.

Most importantly TRAIN hopes that the unique challenges faced by Traveller and Romani families in Child Protection will not be dismissed, minimised or denied. If the significant discrimination that Traveller and Romani face in child protection is not taken seriously, all of the work that TRAIN has tried to achieve and all of the lobbying work it has done will be undone. 



Traveller and Romani Advice and Information Network 

Case example: working with Roma families

Gaba Smolinska-Poffley
Deputy Coordinator and Roma Support and Engagement Programme Leader

"In my work for the Roma Support Group, I have been involved in a number of cases where Roma families were involved with social workers. In our work, we noticed that language can create huge barriers in engagement between Roma and social workers. Social services frequently need to use interpreting services in order to communicate. On most occasions, an interpreter speaking one of the Romany dialects is not available so the only choice is to use an interpreter who speaks the language spoken in the country the family came from. Usually it is a second language for Roma and often their vocabulary in this language is limited.

An additional barrier to communication can be that many Roma would not only have problems understanding words but also whole concepts. It is really important that social workers understand that some social work words do not easily translate into Romany or other languages used by Roma. For example, I was supporting one Roma family who were struggling with the care of their child, and the social worker asked them if they thought that they would benefit from parenting classes. But once the interpreter had translated this, the family thought the social worker was offering them sex education.

The family were deeply embarrassed and told the social worker no. As a result, it appeared that the family was reluctant to co-operate with the social worker. Luckily, the social worker had the insight tocheck with the parents what they thought parenting classes were. Once this had been clarified, the family was happy and grateful for the opportunity to learn how to look after their child. The meaning of words, particularly social work terms, is so important when working with Roma. They may never have heard about things like parenting classes before."