The Home Secretary has paid tribute to community leaders for their dedication to the Windrush generation, as the Windrush Working Group met for the final time.

Co-chairing the meeting with Bishop Derek Webley, the Home Secretary thanked the members for the important role they have played to ensure significant progress has been made following the Windrush Lessons Learned Review and the challenge they have provided to shape and improve the Home Office’s response, in the interests of the Windrush generation.

The Windrush Working Group was set up in June 2020 to bring together stakeholders and community leaders with senior representatives from several government departments. Their 3-year term expires at the end of September.

Today’s meeting, at the Home Office on Marsham Street, involved discussions looking back on celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush in June, reflections on the work and achievements of the group, future planning to ensure the group’s contribution to government policy is long lasting and embedded, and an update on future engagement and outreach with the Windrush community.

The Home Secretary reiterated that, despite the group’s term coming to an end, the government remains committed to learning the lessons of Windrush and ensuring those affected receive the compensation they deserve.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:

The Windrush Working group have made a huge contribution to ensure we learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal. Over the past 3 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 group have been integral to seeing improvements made to the Windrush Compensation Scheme to ensure individuals affected receive significantly more money, more quickly.

Their contribution led to a major overhaul in December 2020, which included a raising of the minimum payment from £250 to £10,000, which is paid as a preliminary payment as soon as someone applying can demonstrate an impact on their life under the terms of the scheme, whilst their claim is considered in full.

A significant increase in the impact on life category was also introduced, raising it at every level, with the highest award possible increasing from £10,000 to £100,000 – since this, over £76 million has been paid out or offered, in contrast to a total of just under £3 million prior to those changes.

Feedback from the group led to major simplification of the compensation application process when claim forms were redesigned and published in 2021 and 2022, to make it more straightforward for claimants to detail their experiences.

A further result of their feedback led to increased staffing being added to the compensation scheme. This led to a drastic reduction in the time taken to allocate a claim to a caseworker for a final decision, having completed necessary initial checks and investigation, from 18 months to 4 months.

Statistics published this month show that £67.59 million has been paid out by the end of July 202 across 1,820 claims. A further £11.71 million has been offered, awaiting acceptance, or pending review. This totals over £79 million paid or offered.

Bishop Derek Webley, co-chair of the Windrush Working Group, said:

The last 3 years have been challenging for all of us on the Working Group. But collectively, we worked hard to right as many wrongs as we could in the time available. 

So, I would like to put on record my thanks to Home Secretaries with whom I have worked closely, Rt Hon.Priti Patel, Rt Hon. Suella Braverman and to my fellow members who have dedicated their energy, time and commitment to this important cause.

I also want to pay tribute to Wendy Williams, CBE, for her support and guidance; and to the Race Disparity Unit in the Cabinet Office for the critical role they played in helping me and the stakeholder members drive forward some of the crucial changes that needed to be made.

Although there is more to do, and the Home Office has assured us that the work will continue, I am pleased that we can conclude this cross-government group knowing that things are better now than when we started.

As Deputy Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, Paulette Simpson – a Windrush Working Group member – played a crucial role in the development of the Windrush Monument in Waterloo station in 2022, which symbolises the courage, commitment and resilience of the thousands of men, women and children who travelled to the UK to start new lives from 1948 to 1971.

Elsewhere, the group advised on the design and delivery of the £500,000 Windrush Schemes Community Fund, which allowed community and grassroot organisations to bid for up to £25,000 to deliver projects encouraging applications to the Home Office’s documentation and compensation schemes. It also worked tirelessly around the UK and overseas through their networks and diplomatic contacts to promote the schemes.

The group has provided strategic insight into the Home Office’s response to Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned Review, which was published in March 2019. In her progress report, published in March 2022, Wendy Williams concluded that 21 of her 30 recommendations had been met or partially met, and acknowledged that the scale of the challenge the department had been set would take time.

Since her progress report, the Home Office has made significant progress in delivering a number of recommendations including those related to training for staff.

As the Home Office continues to learn the lessons and see a shift in the culture, it is natural that teams evolve, and this work has now become embedded in the department’s everyday business.

The Community Engagement Fund was relaunched on 1 August 2023. £150,000 is available to charities and community or grassroots organisations to raise awareness for the Windrush schemes and gain insight around barriers to applying. Successful applicants, who will receive a grant between £5,000 and £10,000, will be announced later this year after the application process closed on 30 August 2023.

Published 20 September 2023