• advocacy;
  • anti-oppressive practice;
  • control;
  • dilemmas;
  • Travellers

This paper explores dilemmas facing social work in England in providing anti-oppressive services for Travellers, particularly those who lack secure sites. A context is provided by outlining the conflict between Travellers and the majority society, and its expression in oppressive legislation, policy and practice. The implications of the corporate local authority role for relationships between Travellers and social services, and the specific history of Travellers and welfare, are also explored. The remainder of the paper draws on findings from a Nuffield-funded study of policy and provision by English social services departments for Traveller children and families. Provision is undermined by mutually difficult relationships between Traveller communities and social services, and competing demands on social services in relation to professional values and support of Travellers’ rights, and their simultaneous contribution to local authority control of unauthorized camping. However, newer developments in some social services departments may be able to generate more positive relationships with Travellers, to promote their individual and cultural rights, and build partnerships with voluntary agencies which have a significant role in work with Travellers. The implications for social services departments wishing to develop their policies and practice with Traveller families are outlined.