On the 72nd anniversary of the HMS Windrush’s arrival in the UK, a cross-government working group has been launched in an attempt to address the challenges faced by the Windrush generation, two years after the then prime minister, Theresa May, promised to right the wrongs faced by those mistakenly classified as illegal immigrants by the Home Office.
Duwayne Brooks, a campaigner and friend of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, has agreed to join the group, in recognition of the “terrible” treatment faced by the Windrush generation. He said he was “looking forward to working with the home secretary to ensure all those affected come forward to claim the compensation they deserve and get the support they need to move on”.
Amid concern that large numbers of those affected have not yet made compensation claims, the Home Office announced it will spend £750,000 on an advertising campaign to make people aware of the support available to them and how to apply.
Officials said the group, which will be co-chaired by the home secretary and Bishop Derek Webley, would help the Home Office consider how to respond to the Wendy Williams “lessons learned” report into the causes of the Windrush scandal. Williams made 30 recommendations, calling for the appointment of an “immigration tsar” and urging ministers to launch a full review of the government’s hostile environment policies that led to thousands of legal residents being sacked from their jobs, denied access to free NHS healthcare, and in extreme cases made homeless, arrested and deported.
The announcement comes as the government comes under renewed pressure to explain why so few people have received compensation under the scheme and why so many of those who have applied have faced long waits. Of 1,275 claims for compensation made so far, only 60 payments have been made, and 529 people have been waiting for more than a year.
“It is unconscionable that more than two years after the Home Office committed to compensating people affected by the Windrush scandal, so many are still waiting for payment,” Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee said, in a letter sent to the Home Secretary this weekend.
The group, which will meet quarterly, will also “support the design and delivery of practical solutions to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect people from black and wider BAME backgrounds,” officials said, adding that the group would cooperate with the new racial inequality commission, set up last week.
Officials from a number of government departments, including No 10, the Home Office, the Department for Education, the Department of Health and Social Care, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions, will sit on the group.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, said: “This group is crucial to delivering on our promise to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and it is right that we advance these issues in a constructive, sensitive and responsible way.
“We know that the best way to make sure we reach all those affected is by listening to them and hearing their voices, including how best to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect those from BAME backgrounds.”
From the BBC:
The author of a report into the Windrush scandal is warning there is a “grave risk” of similar failures happening again if the government does not implement its recommendations.
Wendy Williams told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour the Home Office still needed to “make good on its commitment to learn the lessons”.
People from the Commonwealth were told wrongly they were illegally in the UK.
The Home Office said the home secretary intends to “right those wrongs”.
Mrs. Williams said the risks posed by the controversial policy were flagged to the Home Office by “other groups and stakeholders” but because ministers ignored the warnings the outcome of the Windrush scandal was “both foreseeable and avoidable”.
Her report made 30 recommendations.
She said: “The Home Office has a very stark choice. It can decide not to implement my recommendations and, if that happens, then I think there is a very grave risk of something similar happening again.”
The Home Office said in a statement the home secretary has been clear that the mistreatment of the Windrush generation by successive governments was “completely unacceptable and she will right those wrongs”.
As part of that effort Ms Patel has launched the Windrush Cross-Government Working Group, it announced.
Co-chaired by Ms Patel and Bishop Derek Webley, the group is intended to bring together stakeholders and community leaders with government officials to address the challenges faced by the Windrush generation and their descendants.
- Volunteers make meals for Windrush generation – BBC News
- Brother turns Windrush scandal into a TV drama
- Campaigners criticise ‘paltry’ Windrush payouts
Ms Williams also said the compensation scheme for victims of the scandal is not demonstrating the benefits it should and applications need to be processed quickly and sensitively, with interim payments made where possible.
However, the Home Office pointed out that the scheme made the first payment within four months of opening and has offered claimants over £640,000 in the first year.
It said that Ms Patel will give an update on her intended response to the review before the summer recess and will then provide a detailed formal response in September.
It added the Commonwealth Citizens Taskforce has granted over 12,000 people a form of documentation that confirms their right to remain in the UK and guarantee their access to public services.