Elder Roma Engagement Project (2011-14)

“There is so much that I can still do for my family and other people. Being old is not the same as feeling “old” and I do not want my age to define me. So much is happening and changing nowadays that I feel that if we, older Roma, do not keep up with understanding some of them, our young people will be confused and lose links with their culture. We must try to understand and support them.” – Elder Roma Peer Advocate

Elder Roma Engagement Project supported Older Roma to become a catalyst for positive changes in their communities through peer advocacy and intergenerational activities to enhance an understanding of Roma culture.

The Peer Advocacy scheme has addressed the barriers and challenges that Older Roma face by a two-pronged approach:

  • One-to-one Peer Advocacy, which helped to tackle an individual’s practical needs and barriers while ensuring a feeling of safety and security;
  • Group Advocacy, which helped to boost individual and collective confidence.

Five Peer Advocates were trained each year and supervised to deliver one-to-one advocacy sessions for 90 older Roma, addressing issues such as welfare rights, housing options, ways to reduce dependency on families, managing debt, health & safety, safeguarding vulnerable adults, and access to health services.

Peer Advocacy has continued to make significant impact on older Roma people’s lives. Despite the restructure of the whole welfare system, immigration/ welfare changes effecting EU migrants, legal aid cuts and closure of many public services, older Roma beneficiaries reported a sense of empowerment generated by better understanding of their rights and entitlements, boosted confidence, increased abilities to manage their day-to-day problems and feeling less isolated.

The Project has transformed the way older Roma are perceived, shifting their image from those who are vulnerable to those who are influential and indispensable in representing the community and making decisions. As a catalyst for positive change in their communities, older Roma challenged anti-Roma stereotypes through their intergenerational work in schools, as well as participating in Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month, focus group meetings and action research.

The Project with its focus on social change, self- and community empowerment has significantly contributed to strengthening the perception that the Roma migrants to the West are not just a problem to be persuaded to stay at home and contained within Eastern/ Central Europe but are part of the solution to our fractured society and that they can give something back.