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The Fundación Secretariado Gitano carries out a telephone survey to 11,000 Roma people that reveals the serious social impact of the Covid-19 crisis

Lack of food and basic necessities, scarcity of resources, and the educational gap


The Fundación Secretariado Gitano carries out a telephone survey to 11,000 Roma people that reveals the serious social impact of the Covid-19 crisis<br>

Teams from the Fundación Secretariado Gitano have carried out a telephone survey of the Roma people who participate in its programmes. The aim was to find out exactly how the current public health crisis caused by Covid-19 is affecting their households and what their real-life needs are, and to ensure that our actions, and the actions we are calling for the public administration to take, are the appropriate ones.

10,935 people were interviewed in 68 cities across 14 Autonomous Communities during the week of 30th March to 3rd April. 58% of the interviews were with female respondents and 42% with males. 15% of those interviewed were under 16 years of age, 46% were aged between 16 and 30, 21% between 30 and 40 and 18% were aged over 40. The survey provides data in five areas: respondents’ health, their social needs, their employment situation, the educational situation of minors and perceptions of discrimination.

The survey is valuable because it provides up-to-the-minute information, giving a snapshot of the general situation of the Roma population at this moment in time (based on almost 11,000 interviews across the whole country), and because of its utility as a tool for setting priorities and taking decisions.


Results of the survey

A survey of 11,000 Roma people reveals the serious social impact of the Covid-19 crisis

  • The Fundación Secretariado Gitano has carried out 11,000 telephone interviews with Roma people who participate in their programmes in 68 locations: 40% of those interviewed are having problems accessing food, and of those people, only 24% have received help from the local authorities.
  • The significant vulnerability and inequality Roma people were already experiencing before this crisis has been exacerbated by the impact of the lockdown and by the impossibility of continuing the activities which used to provide them with a basic income.
  • We must urgently ensure that the aid promised by the Government and by Autonomous Communities is distributed to the most vulnerable families, and mechanisms to provide a minimum income must be put in place.

The main conclusion is that there is a low incidence of Covid-19 in Roma households (in terms of infections or deaths). The most pressing need, and the one which most preoccupies the families, is the need to cover basic necessities and obtain food.

The lockdown has had an immediate effect on the ability to earn a living of many of these Roma families, who normally live day-to-day relying on insecure forms of work, often in the informal economy and without social and legal protections. This crisis is not a situation which Roma people have ever faced before. In addition, contrary to popular belief, only a third of these families, living in extreme poverty, receive social welfare benefits such as minimum income payments.

The results of the survey relating to access to basic necessities are as follows:

  • More than 40% of those interviewed are experiencing difficulty in accessing food. Families in difficulty are receiving help mainly from the extended family or from neighbours (more than 40%), followed by social organisations and parishes (more than 30%) and after that from the local authorities (23.34%).
  • 28% of minors are recipients of free school meals, and of this group, 78% are receiving the food they are entitled to through arrangements made by the local authorities or their centre of education, while around 20% are not receiving it.
  • 34% of participants are finding it difficult to pay their electricity bills, 31% their water bills, 25.6% their rent and 25% their gas bills.
  • More than half of participants (53.2%) need support from their local social services. Of this group,2% are not receiving the support they need.

Results relating to the respondents’ employment situation are as follows:

  • 64% of Roma people participating were unemployed before the Covid-19 crisis: only 14% were employed, 3% were self-employed as street vendors and 19% were street vendors in the informal economy (assisting family members) or collected scrap metal. This situation of inequality and vulnerability has intensified as the crisis has developed.
  • With the state of alarm, the situation of two thirds of Roma people in paid employment has worsened: more than one third have lost their jobs, another third have been temporarily laid off and 12% have seen their working hours reduced. Only 24% have not seen any change in their situation.
  • 71% of self-employed people are street vendors in the informal economy, often assisting family members, and are not registered as self-employed.
  • 58% of unemployed people do not receive any kind of social welfare payment and find themselves lacking financial protection at this time.

Results relating to the educational situation are as follows:

  • Only a third of minors participating in our educational programmes have access to a computer.
  • More than 40% of students do not have internet access, or have limited data allowances. The students who most often face this problem are those in primary education (48.62%), followed by those in compulsory secondary education (38.20%), those in basic vocational training (37.74%) and those in post-compulsory secondary education (29.73%).
  • Almost 30% cannot carry out the learning tasks sent to them by their centres of education, in most cases because they lack the necessary equipment and/or access to educational materials. In addition, there are 15% who, while they have the necessary equipment and materials, cannot make progress because they do not understand the subject matter and are not receiving the support they need to resolve this problem.
  • Only just over half of the students receive support from their families to complete these learning tasks.

Proposals from the Fundación Secretariado Gitano

The situation is desperate for many Roma families, particularly in terms of the lack of food and basic necessities. One month into the lockdown, sufficient quantities of emergency aid are not getting to those most in need and all the indications are that urgent and extraordinary measures need to be taken.

The FSG calls for urgent action, putting statutory social services to work in coordinating emergency aid and food delivery in the most deprived areas, and making use of the FEAD (Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived) among other resources. While we await the promised Minimum Living Income, we also call for urgent financial aid to be made available, at least to the families with the lowest incomes and with dependent children in their care. Finally, we call for increased collaboration between local authorities and NGOs, and the redirection of some current subsidies (such as the income tax subsidy), to be distributed by specialised Third Sector organisations to help cover basic necessities (and close the digital divide).