The Windrush scandal five years on: Have the wrongs been put right?

  • ITV News Central Political correspondent Alison Mackenzie reports on the Windrush scandal, five years on

It was the scandal that led to the resignation of the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd. She had falsely declared there were no targets for enforced deportation of illegal immigrants. 

But the push to achieve those targets resulted in what has been described as a "shameful episode" of British history .

Paulette Wilson from Wolverhampton was one of those wrongly targeted detained and threatened with deportation to Jamaica.

Her daughter Natalie Barnes said she "didn't realise how bad it was" and was shocked at the scale of the scandal.

Speaking to ITV News Central she said: "You just think about your Mum."

"But then to find out how many people had been sent back or detained or were still in detention centre or suffering...They had no money... I didn't realise how bad it was until my Mum went through it."

Paulette had arrived completely legally in England in 1968 to join her grandparents. She had worked and paid taxes for years and raised a family.  Sadly she passed away in 2020.

Home Secretary Priti Patel made a formal apology to parliament on publication of the independent 'Windrush Lessons Learned Review' by Wendy Williams in March 2020.

She promised action on all 30 recommendations to help those affected by the scandal which first emerged in 2018. 

But, five years on, three key recommendations in the report were rejected by the current Home Secretary Suella Braverman. 

  • No migrants commissioner to be appointed.

  • No reconciliation events between Windrush families and ministers to be held . 

  • And no new powers for the independent Chief inspector of Borders and Immigration. 

"Something terribly wrong was done" says Nottingham Windrush campaigner

Windrush campaigners Patrick Vernon from Wolverhampton and Pastor Clive Foster from Nottingham are among those angered by the rowing back on pledges, and are also critical of the Windrush compensation scheme. 

"One of the problems is that is too much burden on the claimants to prove what has happened to them," said Pastor Foster.

"They are pensioners thinking about retiring and being with their families and they are being asked to provide paperwork that they simply can't have.

"This is the generation that have given their best. Something terribly wrong was done to them and then they are being asked to prove something which is sometimes almost impossible."

Patrick Vernon says the Home Office has so far failed to deal with a backlog of compensation cases.

He said: "Some victims, two or three years after making a submission, are still waiting for a caseworker.

"The compensation also does not reflect the true impact of loss around people's mental health or financial loss."

ITV News asked the Home Secretary about the criticisms levelled at the UK government

The Home Secretary sat down with ITV News exclusively to discuss these criticisms.

She said: "What I would say is that we work with a lot of members of the working group who are constantly giving us helpful feedback and helping us to improve our system."

"Over the last few years, seeing the level of engagement and the humility with which the department has approached the issue, thousands of people are receiving documentation , receiving compensation on the back of a process that is improving constantly.

"Yes there is always more that we can do but I am proud of what the government has been doing in resolving this historic injustice."

I went with Patrick Vernon and Natalie Barnes - the daughter of Paulette Wilson - to visit the Heritage Centre in Wolverhampton run by the black community. 

Back in the 1960s it was the constituency office of MP Enoch Powell. It was where he had drafted his controversial and notorious "Rivers of Blood " speech.  

Today it is the place for a blue plaque in honour of a child of the Windrush generation -Paulette Wilson. 

The plaque honouring Paulette Wilson. Credit: ITV

"It was an amazing feeling to know that people have acknowledged my Mum and wanting to put up a blue plaque in her memory is absolutely amazing," said Natalie

The sense I gained from meeting those directly affected by the Windrush scandal in the Midlands was that it caused heartache and resentment but that never once did they feel any in anyway ashamed of being British.

Their elders came here to rebuild the nation in the post war years, and they hope that, eventually, the dreadful wrongs will be put right.