Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

2.2m boost for five Gypsy and traveller sites in Wales

Residents give their views on what improvements could be made to the Shirenewton site

More than £2m is to be spent improving five Gypsy and traveller sites in Wales.

The money will go on improving sites in Welshpool, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea, Torfaen and Cardiff.

Social Justice Minister Carl Sargeant announced the funding at the Shirenewton site near Cardiff.

He said providing better basic services was "an important part of the assembly government's drive to improve equality amongst communities across Wales."

The largest grant, under a scheme set up in 2007, is £970,696 for the Withybeds site in Welshpool.

Ty Gwyn, Morriston, Swansea, £9,534
Shirenewton, Cardiff, £373,762
Beddau, Rhondda Cynon Taf, £684,531
Withybeds, Powys, £970,696
Shepherds Hill, Torfaen, £231,825
Source: Welsh Assembly Government

The assembly government's website says the 2010-2011 refurbishment grant aims to improve the quality of life for site residents by "modernising existing facilities provided on sites by local authorities, and the provision of new facilities on sites where needed."

Isaac Blake is a Romany Gypsy who grew up on the Shirenewton caravan site, and part of the assembly commission's Step Up Cymru scheme, which pairs people from under-represented communities with AMs and local councillors so they can learn more about how decisions are made.

Mr Blake told BBC Radio Wales: "As a young Gypsy man growing up, there was little to nothing really happening on these sites.

"Children and young people are entitled to same opportunities to play safe, to be free from bullying in school, to grow up safe and strong, with the skills to participate and contribute in our community.

Isaac Blake
Dancer and choreographer Isaac Blake grew up on the Shirenewton site

"Most sites are really badly run down. If the settled community had this level of service, there would be uproar. There are sites where there are power cables, pot[holes] - there's no safe place for young people to play or hang out."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission in Wales said it welcomed the assembly government investment to "provide the basic services every family needs".

Director Kate Bennett said: "Parents in Gypsy and traveller communities are 20 times more likely to experience the death of a child than the general population."

She said: "We all want our children to be healthy and educated."

In January 2009, former minister Dr Brian Gibbons announced grants worth £500,000 to improve and extend facilities at five Gypsy traveller sites in Wales.

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