DOZENS of traveller caravans were pitched on sites in Bracknell Forest shortly before lockdown, figures show.

Members of the Traveller community say they have been forgotten about by the Government during the coronavirus pandemic, amid concerns the group are at increased risk from the disease.

The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government snapshot shows 54 traveller caravans were on sites in Bracknell Forest in January.

Of these, 13 were on authorised, socially-rented sites operated by councils and housing associations, and 41 were on privately funded sites with planning permission.

This was an increase on the 42 caravans recorded at the last count in July 2019.

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Across England, 22,700 traveller caravans were recorded in January – with almost 90per cent on authorised sites.

However, the number of families living by the roadside or on other unauthorised sites this summer will not be known, as the usual July count has been suspended because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

A report from human rights group Doctors of the World found UK Travellers, like all “excluded people”, are at greater risk of being exposed to the coronavirus and are struggling to access healthcare services.

It noted that Traveller workers have been heavily impacted by job losses, while children are missing out on education due to “digital exclusion”.

The Traveller Movement charity said it is hard to estimate the impact of the coronavirus on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, but that existing health disparities will be exacerbated.

Chelsea McDonagh, the group’s education policy and campaigns officer, said GRT communities like hers have been forgotten about.

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She said: “Those who are still roadside are not protected by the weak government guidance and as a result are still being moved on, whilst access to education is not happening for all GRT children.

“This pandemic has shown, once again, that GRT communities are not a priority for the Government and it is much easier to forget about them rather than meet their needs.”

Though there were no unauthorised caravans in Bracknell Forest in January, there were almost 3,000 across England.

The Travellers’ Times, a national project which seeks to challenge discrimination, are urging the Government and local authorities to provide everyone in unauthorised encampments with water and sanitation facilities during the crisis.

It wants all evictions of these sites to be stopped and for local authorities to work with Travellers to agree on a temporary period for them to remain.