Case Study One
One Roma family we have worked with since the beginning of the project has experienced significant changes in his situation. At the outset of the project in June 2015 he was still trying to operate as a Big Issue seller on the streets. We were receiving regular complaints from their head office in London that the general public were complaining about his manner, his dress and the pressure he was putting people under to buy copies. He subsquently had his licence removed and the whole Big Issue project in Luton was stopped as a result. As earnings from the Big Issue are still not recognised as a legitimate form of income, we were not able to help him access welfare. His wife and their four children were destitute. Eventually our Roma Community Champion found him a suitable job, helped him get his act together and tidy up, and he has been in regular work ever since. We were then able to access welfare for him and his family. His oldest son had never attended school. The day he began at High School had not been easily achieved. The parents had refused to send him as the school was 'too far away'. In the end they saw the imperative of education for their children. The son has a good attendance record and is doing well doing well.
Case Study Two
One of our Roma clients is a widow who has six children. At the time we began working with her, her oldest son had a life-threatening meningitis condition. Mother was out of work and homeless. She was just serviving by selling flowers on the streets. At that time it was nearly impossible in the UK to get a National Insurance Number on the basis of casual work. It was also not yet legal for Romanians to have regular jobs with an employer. Eventually she was granted a NINo. Her son recovered, her older daughters moved on to marry and she had only 4 children left at home. We managed to find her part time work as a cleaner which she did so well her reputation went ahead of her. Evidence of this work enabled her eventually to access welfare and rent a home of her own. Inspite of three evictions - none of her own making - she managed to keep going. Two of her three sons experienced extreme difficulities at their secondary schools. We intervened on numerous occasions and things improved. At every stage we carried out interventions on her behalf to get her through the hurdles. She now has a full time cleaning job for a reputable company who hold her up as a model worker for their company. At many points of the years she came close to giving up, such was the strain on this single mother. We do believe that we played a critical role along side others in helping her to get to the point she is now at. We are now engaged in trying to get her older sons into regular work. This envolved inrolling them at agencies, and encouraging them to believe that work will come their way. Their schooling has provided them with fluent English - but insufficient literacy to access more promising employment. We are working on the younger two children, hoping they will emerge from school with sufficient education for the cylce of family poverty to be broken. Mother has now glimpsed a new life none of her people have ever known. She is a shining example to her community of what is possible through sheer determination to break through. She now is seeking permanent residency in the UK - the next hurdle for us to help her over!
Case Study Three
One day in 2011 Martin received a call from a church minister from a town near Luton. "I have a Roma Romanian couple here with me. We can't communicate as they have no English. But I have been able to work out that they are living on a local Traveller site in appalling conditions and being forced to work for no pay. Mother is pregnant and at risk. Can you help?" Half an hour later Martin arrived to try and help. The local church gave them some money, and the couple came back to Luton with Martin - destitute but glad to have found people willing to help them and someone in England who could speak their gypsy language. A Roma family living in Luton took them in. A trip to the maternity ward revealed that triplets were on the way. Local agencies clubbed together to help the family get enough money together to put down a deposit to rent a house. This was secured within hours of the triplets being born - all 3 well, but having had many weeks in intensive care as they had been premature. Their new home turned out to be infested with rats and quickly developed a leak in the roof. Dad was willing to turn his hand to any kind of work to feed his family. Before long dad's brother arrived from Romania with his family of four, with another one on the way, and also with his brothers' two other children. By now there were four adults and nine children in the house. Back in 2011 it was still illegal for Romanians to have regular jobs in the UK. Somehow they had to find enough self-employed work to survive. What made it even harder was that back then it was almost impossible to get a National Insurance Number, without which it was not possible access welfare. With the help of AIRE and a top barrister dad appealed against his seven refusals for a National Insurance Number. At the very point this was going to judicial review in the high court, the UK government finally decided to allow Romanians and Bulgarias to apply for NINos. And shortly after that, to access the job market. Throughout these years dad kept his spirits up and managed to find work, all along the way working out how to integrate in the UK and to speak English, and to keep his wife and family alive. The families moved out of the rat infested home into nice properties and things gradually got better for them. By 2017 all dad's children were thriving in school, the oldest son having been appointed a school prefect. They attend our music sessions. In 2015 Martin had decided to visit the Roma site where they had lived in Romania before coming to the UK. Dad had built his own concrete hut with his own hands, but could not afford to add heating and lighting and furnishings - and whatever work he had had selling things at car boot sales across the country had dried up. The hut had become an uninhabitable ruin. No responsible parent would not seek to migrate to countries where there was work, education for the children and medical care without having to pass money under the table. This story is typical of countless other Roma families who have risen out of the ashes and built themselves new lives in a new country. A story of guts and determination against all the odds. An inspiration.