A mum whose baby girl has been very poorly after the discovery of a lump in her neck is urging Thanet council to provide more facilities at the temporary Traveller site she is staying on.
The mum, who has asked not to be identified due to fears of ethnically motivated abuse, is part of a Pavee family group that was moved to Ramsgate Port this month from an unauthorised encampment at Palm Bay.
Her youngest child, now eight months, is currently under the care of QEQM Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital while investigations to determine whether the lump is cancerous -including an upcoming biopsy – are underway.
In the last couple of weeks the little girl has deteriorated.
Her mum said: “She started getting sick. I thought it was her teeth but she ended up with a viral infection in her throat. Her tonsils were enlarged and had white pus and bubbles on the side where the lymph nodes are. The infection went through her whole body,
“The lump causes an obstruction in her throat. She was put on antibiotics through IVF and was that sick that she couldn’t eat and drink and was not crying, just moaning because she was in so much pain. She was on IV fluids for five days and then I was given antibiotics for her to take home.
“She has drops and an anaesthetic spray for her throat. We still don’t know what it is, her bloods are still being analysed.”
The mum says her 11-year-old son is also suffering due to chronic asthma. He has a nebuliser machine – to help the respiratory process- to use morning and night but there is no electricity at the site.
This means the medicines can’t be kept cool and the nebuliser cannot be powered.
The mum said: “If he doesn’t have the nebuliser and takes a bad attack I have to take him to hospital. I already have a sick baby and can’t cut myself in half.
“The GOSH consultant had to contact the council. If I didn’t give proof my baby was sick and in a serious condition and that she needs treatment and to be left alone, then they just would keep moving me on and on and out of the district but Canterbury, Herne Bay, Ashford, no-one wants to know.”
The mum, who says she has been issued with several fines due to being on an unauthorised site prior to the move to the port, suffers with COPD and a heart condition.
She has her baby registered with a doctor in the area and says better facilities are needed so she can properly care for her children.
Thanet District Council attended Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, May 27 seeking an order for removal of the group from Palm Bay. This was unsuccessful on welfare grounds and the council was required to identify an alternative site in order to comply with the court. Ramsgate Port was identified as being able to provide facilities whilst being outside of a residential area.
But a representative from the Gypsy and Traveller Coalition, who has been onsite several times, says there are basic needs that still need addressing for the whole site and the 17 children and 40 adults currently based there.
He has been asking Thanet council for additional standpipes – currently there are two – more toilets (separate male and female due to cultural etiquette) showers, more bins – currently there is one -and also a move further back on the site due to people throwing rocks, fireworks and a metal bolt from the cliff top into the site.
He has also requested better screening and a site barrier.
These requests are being backed by Ramsgate county councillor Karen Constantine, district councillors Becky Wing, Tricia Austin, Mike Garner and Raushan Ara and Ramsgate Town Council’s Anne-Marie Nixey as well as Father McNally who looks after the community (all pictured above).
The representative said the council would be aware of the baby’s condition due to the duty to care out welfare checks.
He added: “There are concrete works at the back (of the site) meaning they are all breathing in dust and sand, it is not an appropriate place for sick children.
“Basic facilities are not being provided, there is supposed to be netting to stop people looking in and taking pictures of the children. We need the council to move the site further back because o the fireworks, rocks and metal bolt being thrown from the cliff top. I feel the council is completely ignoring human rights issues and we have a human rights activist now actively involved to look at this.”
The rep said there are 17 authorised sites in Kent – 11 district council ones and six run by the county council – but all are full with long waiting lists.He said this, and the eradication of traditional stopping sites, is forcing people to stay on unsuitable areas.
There is now the threat of legal action against Thanet council on the basis of human rights breaches, says Cllr Constantine.
She said: “We, as county, district and town councillors, have asked for a site meeting with the council team but this has been refused. We want the council to wake up and take these issues seriously. We want proper decency and consideration and a proper site. We want Thanet council to discharge their duties and provide proper facilities otherwise we will have no other option but to take it to the courts and that could involve substantial costs to the council.”
Any decision to take legal action would first have to go through the Gypsy and Traveller Coalition.
The little girl’s dad says that is not a move the family particularly wants to take but said that after the Magistrate at the court allowed them to be heard they were told facilities would be in place.
A Thanet council spokesperson said facilities have been provided and more are due to be installed.
They said: “The temporary welfare site at the Port of Ramsgate’s lorry park complies with the court ruling and provides facilities that meet statutory requirements. The group also saw the site prior to moving there and agreed it was satisfactory.
“The council has provided two metre high screening to the site; three toilets (male, female and a disabled facility); a large bin and sufficient water supply. CCTV is also in place at the Port and on the clifftop which overlooks the site.
“In addition to our statutory requirements showers, which will be linked to the mains power supply, have been ordered and arrive on 30 June. Three more toilets have been ordered for the site and will be in place shortly. There is no requirement for a barrier at the site as the council has powers to prevent unauthorised access.
“Four welfare visits have already been carried out and officers from the council’s Community Team will be visiting again this afternoon. Providing there are no further concerns identified, welfare visits will be carried out weekly as well as regular telephone communication.
“Fines for breaching a Public Space Protection Order and Community Protection Notice were issued on 30 April and cancelled on 24 May. The refund request for one of the paid fines has also been issued.
“The Travellers are located on the only site available to us that can accommodate such a large group and provide the required welfare arrangements such as access to water and sanitation. The site is also outside of a residential area and causing as little disruption to commercial activity of the Port as possible.”
A Thanet council members’ briefing to update on the site issues is scheduled for next week.
Previous temporary site proposals
In December 2019 approval was given for work to assess Potten Street in St Nicholas-at-Wade, Tivoli Brook in Margate and Ramsgate Port for use as temporary tolerated stopping sites.
But both Ramsgate Port and Tivoli Brook were removed from the plans in July 2020. The proposal for Ramsgate Port was scrapped because it was “undergoing a feasibility study and the proposed area is in use for the storage of cars and is returning a revenue, it is also an industrialised area and not suited to families and young children.”
Thanet does not yet have an authorised site for Gypsy and Traveller use.