Suella Braverman has insisted her department still has “unwavering focus” on improving the situation for victims of the Windrush scandal, as a dedicated team dealing with the fallout was wound up and a working group met for the final time.
The Home Secretary said she wants to see all those affected by the scandal – which saw many lose homes, jobs and face the threat of deportation – compensated, and expressed her pride in what had been achieved to date.
She made the comments as the Windrush Working Group met for the final time, having been set up in June 2020 to bring community leaders together with senior representatives from Government departments. Its three-year term finishes at the end of September.
It has also been confirmed that the Home Office’s transformation programme for change in the wake of the scandal will no longer be managed through a dedicated team but rather “embedded into the fabric of our everyday operations and activities”.
This is due to the “significant progress we have made”, according to the Home Office’s annual report and accounts which were published on Tuesday.
The development, first reported by the Guardian newspaper in June, was attacked by a campaign group.
Dr Wanda Wyporska, chief executive of Black Equity Organisation, said: “This is just the latest blow in a long line of incompetence, failure and rank injustice by the Home Office.
“It’s clear that they just want to sweep their mistreatment of the Windrush generation under the carpet and hope we all forget about them.
“We stand together to continue to fight for justice and to hold the Home Office accountable.”
Lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie, who has worked with several people affected by the scandal, said the team’s disbandment was “very distressing for not just the countless numbers of victims of the scandal yet to see any form of justice, but for others who rely on the services of the Home Office”.
She added: “The Windrush scandal is far from abated. There’s no evidence of significant progress having been made, and to make such a claim, the Home Office should be asked to explain and give examples.”
The Home Office said that £67.59 million had been paid out by the end of July under the compensation scheme, and a further £11.71 million has been offered, was awaiting acceptance, or was pending review.
Of the working group’s final meeting, Ms Braverman said: “The Windrush Working Group have made a huge contribution to ensure we learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal. Over the past three years their insight, collaboration and challenge have been vital in shaping the Home Office’s response.
“I have deeply valued their advice and it has been an honour to work constructively alongside them. I’d like to thank them for their dedication to the Windrush community and determination to see progress.
“I am proud of what has been achieved so far, but our commitment does not end here. We will continue with unwavering focus to see further improvements and that all those affected receive compensation.”
The 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush to the UK was marked in June, with events across Britain.
The ship arrived in England on June 22 1948 at Tilbury Docks in Essex, bringing people from the Caribbean who answered Britain’s call to help fill post-war labour shortages.
But the scandal, which erupted in 2018, saw many British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, denied access to healthcare and benefits and threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in the UK.