Windrush campaigner fears Home Office could wind up compensation scheme
Patrick Vernon repeated calls to make the scheme independent, saying it is not appropriate to have the ‘perpetrators’ of the scandal run the scheme.
His concerns come in the 75th anniversary week as it was reported that the Home Office unit set up with responsibility for reforming the department in the wake of the scandal – which saw many lose homes, jobs and face the threat of deportation – is to be disbanded.
Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 network, said he fears this is a pattern of behaviour from the Government and a narrative that is “gaslighting” those whose lives have been devastated by what he said is “not the Windrush scandal, it’s a Home Office scandal”.
The Guardian reported that staff working in the transformation directorate of the Home Office were told in an online meeting that the unit would be closing at the end of this month.
The department said it does not routinely comment on leaks and speculation but said there “have been and will continue to be team changes as the Windrush response is delivered”.
A spokesperson for the department said: “The Government is honouring its Windrush commitments and providing support to those affected every day.
“Over £72 million compensation has been paid or offered already and the scheme will stay open as long as needed. We will continue to keep our partners up to date.”
Mr Vernon repeated calls to make the scheme independent of the Home Office, saying it is not appropriate to have the “perpetrators” of the scandal running the compensation scheme.
He said he is concerned the Government will end the scheme after reaching a certain limit, but he accused them of not having provided enough support for people to navigate the process.
He told the PA news agency: “What they’ve not done is made the effort, they’ve not provided proper legal aid support or systems helping people to complete the forms. A lot of people haven’t come forward yet. Therefore they (the Home Office) are creating this narrative which is gaslighting further the Windrush generation.”
He said the complication of the process has put people off, and that some of the most high-profile cases remain outstanding.
He added: “Of course some people have received compensation, some people have received decent compensation.
“But the point I’m trying to make is that people don’t trust the Home Office. The Home Office is not the right department, they are the perpetrators, it should be independent.”
He said he wants to be proved wrong, but currently fears the compensation scheme could be closed entirely within a year “which means thousands of people will miss out completely and they will be further retraumatised by the lack of intent and commitment from the Government to resolve this.”
Black Equity Organisation chief executive Dr Wanda Wyporska said: “If the reports are correct, the Home Office, under Secretary of State Suella Braverman, will be near to completing the process of totally abdicating itself from the responsibility to right the wrongs done to the Windrush generation, and protect future generations from its cruel and discredited ‘hostile environment’ strategy.
“The Prime Minister must step in and ensure that the Windrush generation and future migrants to this country aren’t left to be preyed upon by a Home Office that appears to care little for their service, struggle or basic human rights. That would be a fitting tribute to the Windrush generation.”
The 75th anniversary milestone is being marked with events across Britain, including the Windrush flag being raised in locations including the Houses of Parliament and the Home Office, and a national commemoration service at Southwark Cathedral on Thursday.