The Windrush Scandal may be making fewer headlines, but its lasting impact is far from over. This was the message we heard loud and clear at the first Windrush National Organisation (WNO) International Conference held in Birmingham in October 2022.
The WNO are a coalition of grassroots groups fighting to right the wrongs of the Windrush Scandal, chaired by Bishop Dr Desmond Jaddoo. As Birmingham council leader Ian Ward told WNO attendees: “The Windrush Generation helped shape Birmingham”, but many hit by the Windrush Scandal are still waiting for justice.
In 2018, the Windrush Scandal started to get mainstream attention. Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were from the “Windrush Generation,” who had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights, losing their jobs, and homes in the process, told their stories powerfully in the media, causing public outrage in response.
Some of the key champions of the scandal spoke at the conference. Amelia Gentleman, the Guardian journalist whose extensive reporting raised the profile of the issue, gave a short speech and interviewed the new Home Office Minister responsible for the Windrush Compensation scheme, Lord Simon Murray. Issues with the Windrush Compensation Scheme have been widely reported and Lord Murray admitted that there are still problems to be fixed but he is committed to finding out ‘what more can be done with and for those effected.’ At least 23 people have died while their compensation claims were being processed.
This is something Jacqui McKenzie, Windrush advocate, Partner and Head of Immigration and Asylum at Leigh Day Solicitors highlighted powerfully in her conference speech. She said that the Home Office informed her that delays in processing compensation claims was due to a staff shortage that could not be rectified. But on a visit to the Home Office for a meeting, she saw that they had seconded a team specifically for Ukraine. She made it clear that this was the right thing to do – we are unwavering in our support for Ukrainian refugees – but this commitment is urgently needed for Windrush victims too. Nigel Hills, the director of the Home Office’s Windrush Compensation Scheme, recognised this. He said the Home Office met its recruitment target, to hire 120 more caseworkers by the Spring of 2022 and were in the process of taking on more
These delays in processing compensation and the complicated nature of the scheme have left grassroots groups, pro bono lawyers and law centres to pick up the slack. A lawyer at the conference told the audience that with her support a claimant might get £100,000 in compensation but without representation, Windrush victims get lowballed, offered as a little as £20,000. Lawyers and advocates do vital work but with little financial support.
In his workshop on Home Office engagement, Patrick Vernon, the social commentator and Windrush campaigner, said this needs to change. Grassroots civil society organisations are a critical bridge, and their community engagement methods are crucial to reaching more of those affected.
At Action for Race Equality, we’re managing a new fund set up by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Network for Social Change, AB Charitable Trust, Mayor of London, City Bridge Trust and Disrupt Foundation. The Windrush Justice Programme will support grassroots groups and organisations working directly with people affected by the scandal to regularise their status and apply for compensation. In the first round, we will be approaching organisations directly so we can get much needed funds to eligible organisations as soon as possible.
ARE is in the process of mapping which organisations are working on Windrush across the UK ready for an open round of funding that will launch next year. If this sounds like the kind of work you’re doing, we’d love to hear from you.
Patrick argued that that philanthropists alone shouldn’t be responsible for Windrush justice. The Home Office should be accountable and proactive by match funding the support for grassroots groups currently being provided by foundations. He felt that the Home Office should go out to Jamaica and other affected countries and directly support people who have been wrongfully deported to regularise their status.
The most powerful part of the conference was hearing the testimonies of people affected by the Windrush Scandal. Glenda Caesar, an WNO Advocate who spoke about her experience, turned the trauma of losing her job at a GP Practice into action. She has become a key advocate for others. But it shouldn’t be left to individuals to do this work.
The Windrush lessons learned review into what went wrong released recommendations in 2020. Progress has been made but the government is yet to implement many of these recommendations or has watered them down. As the fight for justice continues, the government should take decisive and ambitious action on all aspects of the scandal.
Only then can they rebuild trust with communities that have lost so much.
Author: Kimberley McIntosh
The Windrush Justice Programme, funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Mayor of London, Disrupt Foundation, Network for Social Change, AB Charitable Trust and City Bridge Trust is a brand new ARE programme supporting grassroots organisations and groups working directly with those affected by the Windrush Scandal.
For more information on the Windrush Justice Programme, please contact Grant and Programme Manager, Kimberly McIntosh