windrush day 2020

Windrush Day 2020: Cross-Government Working Group Launched

Home Secretary Announces Windrush Cross-Government Working Group

On Windrush Day 2020, the 72nd anniversary of the day the SS Empire Windrush brought the first post-war Caribbean migrants to the UK, the Home Secretary has announced the creation of a cross-government working group aimed at tackling the injustices suffered by the Windrush generation. 

The group will be co-chaired by the Home Secretary and Bishop Derek Webley, and will work to ensure that the government effectively implements the recommendations made in Wendy Williams’ ‘Windrush lessons learned’ review, which set out the steps that must be taken to avoid further injustice.

The review makes 30 recommendations in total, including offering a full and unqualified apology to those affected, and launching a full review of the Hostile Environment policies that have resulted in many legal residents being denied healthcare and losing their jobs and homes.

In addition to advising the government on how best to respond to the review, the cross-government working group will also support the design and delivery of both the Windrush Schemes Community Fund and practical solutions to the wider challenges that disproportionately affect BAME groups. 

windrush day 2020
The SS Empire Windrush brought around 800 Caribbeans to the UK in 1948. [Image: Sky News]

The formation of the group follows the intense criticism directed at the government for how few victims have received compensation via the Windrush Compensation Scheme, and for how many of those who have applied have experienced excessively long waits. 

The review makes 30 recommendations in total, including offering a full and unqualified apology to those affected, and launching a full review of the Hostile Environment policies that have resulted in many legal residents being denied healthcare and losing their jobs and homes.

As it stands, just 60 of the 1,275 victims who have submitted compensation claims have actually received payment, and 529 of the 1,275 have been waiting for longer than a year.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, raised these issues in a letter sent to the Home Secretary this weekend:

‘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.’

There are also concerns regarding the high numbers of those affected by the Windrush scandal who have not yet submitted a claim at all. In order to address this, the Home Office has stated that it will spend around £750,000 on an advertising campaign to raise awareness of the support available and provide guidance on how to apply. 

The cross-government group will comprise key stakeholders and community leaders alongside senior representatives from a number of government departments. One notable figure who has agreed to join is Duwayne Brooks, a campaigner and friend of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, in recognition of the ‘terrible’ treatment experienced by the Windrush generation and their descendants.

cross-government working group
Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, described the wait for compensation as ‘unconscionable’. [Image: LabourList]

Discussing his decision to join, Brooks 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’.

As it stands, just 60 of the 1,275 victims who have submitted compensation claims have actually received payment, and 529 of the 1,275 have been waiting for longer than a year.

The group will meet once every quarter, and will work alongside the newly-formed racial inequality commission as part of their efforts to address the wider societal issues that hit BAME groups the hardest.

When announcing the formation of the cross-government working group, Home Secretary Priti Patel had this to say:

‘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.’

As today is Windrush Day, a time when the nation remembers the invaluable contributions made by migrants, it is heartening to see the government finally taking steps to avoid future injustice.

Written by
Cameron Boyle
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