A Labour MP has called for the Windrush Compensation Scheme to be taken away from the Home Office. Helen Hayes who is the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood secured the debate in Parliament today.
During the parliamentary debate, she said the compensation scheme has failed victims and slammed the government for not doing more. Speaking in Parliament, Ms Hayes said: “A Windrush Day celebration which fails to acknowledge the hardship and injustice suffered by victims of the Windrush scandal, would be a sentimental hollow rhetoric.
“The government promised to right the wrongs of the Windrush scandal but is failing to do so.”
An evaluation of the compensation scheme by the National Audit Office (NAO) in May, found that the scheme had paid compensation to less than 700 victims and had 2,000 claims outstanding.
The report also highlighted several problems with the scheme, which include quality assurance issues. She also called for more Black British history to be taught in UK schools to prevent another scandal from happening in the future.
Ms Hayes said: “One way we can stop a Windrush scandal from happening again, is by ensuring our children are taught British history in an inclusive way, which tells the story of our complex history of migration and the painful reality and legacy of colonialism and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.”
She asked the government to consider retrieving the Empire Windrush ship’s anchor, which is currently lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, so it can be displayed on Windrush Day in 2023.
The debate was being held to mark the fourth annual Windrush Day, which was granted following a long campaign by Patrick Vernon OBE and other Windrush community groups.
She also read statements from Windrush Scandal victims.
Stephanie O ‘Connor lost her mother Sarah in July 2019, said: “For my mum the compensation scheme has come too late, and I am so disappointed that it is still taking this long for people to get what is owed to them, I just hope that people get compensated fairly for everything that they have been through.”
A statement from Windrush survivor Anthony Bryan was also read out. Mr Bryan was detained twice in Yalswood and his horrific story was made into the award-winning BBC TV drama Sitting in Limbo.
Mr Bryan’s statement said:
“The Home Office took away my liberty, livelihood, sanity, and fellow friends and campaigners the late Sarah O’Connor and Paulette Wilson as result of the hostile environment. They have offered me compensation package which does not reflect what I need to build my life again and to move forward with my family. We need urgently an impartial and independent organisation to support all compensation claims and to provide mental health and wellbeing support.”
During the debate, Labour MP for Sough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, also called for Windrush history to be taught in schools. He said: “Our curriculum needs to be changing, so that our children and indeed all school children must learn Windrush history. “If we learn from the past we can stop repeating the same mistakes in the future.”
“The Home Office took away my liberty, livelihood, sanity, and fellow friends and campaigners the late Sarah O’Connor and Paulette Wilson as result of the hostile environment. They have offered me compensation package which does not reflect what I need to build my life again and to move forward with my family.
He described the story of the Windrush generation as “a story of courage, determination, triumph over adversity and success.” During his speech, the Labour MP described the compensation scheme as a “disaster”.
Bell Riberiro-Addy Labour MP for Streatham, called for the Windrush memorial to be placed in Windrush Square, Brixton. Ms Riberiro-Addy said: “We need to listen to the Windrush generation in terms of where they would like to have their memorial.”
During the debate, the compensation scheme was blasted for not being quick enough.
The government responded to the debate through Kit Malthouse, the Minister of State in the Home Office.
The Conservative MP said the the government remains committed to righting the wrongs of the scandal and reiterated “there is no cap on pay outs” for Windrush scandal victims. He did admit the compensation scheme had been too slow and said the government is working with the families of the 21 victims who died before receiving compensation to ensure they are properly compensated.
He said an independent review was available for those not happy with their compensation offer.
Mr Malthouse also announced that Wendy Williams, author of the Lessons Learned Review into the scandal, would be returning to Home Office in September to see the improvements made to the department.
He described the Windrush scandal as “a stain on the nation’s conscious” and said investigations are currently underway to try and retrieve and restore the anchor.