Gateshead Roma Kavárna Project

A Living Tradition CIC 

Roma Kavárna Project
Report for January and February 2018

The project began in mid-January initially at Gateshead Carers, before moving to its base at 107, Coatesworth Road towards in February.  The kavárna, a drop-in for Eastern European Roma living in Gateshead, has been open for six occasions on Thursdays between 9.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. The aim of the kavárna is to provide a safe space where Roma living locally can go and receive help on a range of issues and meet both other members of the community and a range of Gateshead-based professionals.  It is very ably run by interpreters and workers from the Roma community.

Members of the Roma community have two major barriers preventing them always having the rights they should. Firstly, there is the language barrier faced by most groups of immigrants coming to a town like Gateshead.  Additionally, there is the barrier caused by the huge amount of discrimination and prejudice they have escaped from in Eastern Europe. This discrimination, whether in education, housing, health provision or in the job market, has led to many members of the community not having the confidence to ask for the help they need. The kavárna aims to act as a bridge between the Roma community and the wider community in Gateshead and on Tyneside generally and help them to overcome the barriers.

Members of the community have come to the kavárna with a range of problems they have needed help with. These have included debt advice, help with sorting out council tax (ensuring they get rebates they are entitled to),  dealing with rent arrears and with water bills. Those being helped are not English speakers, so by having excellent interpreters the kavárna has been able to help Roma to sort these problems out. Universal Credit has also proved to be a huge headache for many Roma and  we have been able to help them also with this.

Housing is another huge area where local Roma need help. Among other problems, there are cases of landlords creating service charges for no apparent reason.  When one landlord was phoned about this he promptly hung up..... Another landlord had overcharged a family when they had moved out, charging them for removal of furniture, despite photographic evidence that the home was empty.  When the families have allowed it, as sometimes they are afraid of the landlord, Environmental Health have been phoned, because of a range of problems including the presence of rats, mould and there being no bathroom in a rented property.

In terms of employment, there was a case where a Roma was not paid by an agency for the last two weeks of work and wasn't sent a P45.  People are still worried about employers, who are often also their landlords. Consequently there is not always anything that can be done at the moment as some are afraid of losing their jobs and/or their homes.

People need to have National Insurance numbers or have a child registered as one year old.  There are still numerous Roma families who are 'off the radar' and not receiving the benefits they need and are entitled to. They don't know their rights and as a result they are vulnerable to exploitation by landlords and employers.      
On one occasion the kavárna was open, 3 families just came along for a coffee and a chat, which is another vital function of the project.  There has been a nice family atmosphere created and the project is already becoming so popular that one week two families had to be turned away to come back the following week.   

The work involves helping to build-up confidence among members of the Roma community and helping them to be financially stable.

Peter Sagar, Company Secretary, A Living Tradition CIC, February 2018


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