'Disappointing progress' by Home Office to learn from Windrush scandal, says report

The former British troopship 'Empire Windrush'

The Home Office must make "much more progress" if it is to bring about the "cultural changes required" in the wake of the Windrush scandal, a review has found.

The Government department must "grasp the opportunity" to make "fundamental" changes so it is better at dealing with the public, more "confident under the gaze of scrutiny" and has a more professional workforce, according to a report published on Thursday.

The findings come two years after a critical review by Wendy Williams concluded the Windrush scandal was "foreseeable and avoidable", and victims were let down by "systemic operational failings" at the Home Office.

The March 2020 report said the Government department demonstrated "institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness" towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation and made 30 recommendations for change.

Over the last few months Ms Williams returned to the Home Office to determine whether there have been improvements.

She said: "In some areas, the department has shown ambition and a commitment to taking forward my recommendations. But in others I have been disappointed by the lack of tangible progress or drive to achieve the cultural changes required within a reasonable period to make them sustainable.

"Much more progress is required in policy-making and casework, which will be seen as the major indicators of improvement.

"The department is at a tipping point and the next stage will be crucial in determining whether it has the capacity and capability to make good on its ambitions ‘to build a Home Office fit for the future, one that serves every corner of society…[with] a long-term focus on wholesale and lasting cultural change’."

People arrive from Jamaica in 1948 met by RAF officials from the Colonial Office in Tilbury, Essex
  • The scandal erupted in 2018 when British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation, despite having the right to live in Britain.

  • Many lost homes and jobs, and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

  • Since then, the Home Office has provided thousands of documents to more than 11,500 people confirming their immigration status or citizenship.

  • The department is “undertaking an ambitious and significant transformation programme”, and the next stage is “crucial to the department’s cultural transition”, the latest report said.

Ms Williams added: "I believe the department is potentially poised to make the significant changes it needs to.

"But it must grasp the opportunity to implement the more fundamental recommendations that relate to producing: a more highly trained, developed and professional workforce; a department that is more comfortable engaging with the public and stakeholders on all issues of public policy – not just the uncontentious; an organisation that is more confident under the gaze of external scrutiny.

"If the department fails to do this, it risks looking back on this seminal transformation programme as a missed opportunity."

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: "I am pleased with what we’ve achieved in the last two years and that Wendy Williams has recognised this is a different department from the one she originally saw.

Home Secretary Priti Patel

"I have laid the foundations for radical change in the department and a total transformation of culture. We have already made significant progress and Wendy highlights many achievements, including the work we have put into becoming a more compassionate and open organisation.

"Having said that, there is more to do and I will not falter in my commitment to everyone who was affected by the Windrush scandal. Many people suffered terrible injustices at the hands of successive governments and I will continue working hard to deliver a Home Office worthy of every community we serve.”

Last week, another report found the Windrush compensation scheme – which offers payouts to victims affected by the scandal – has "structural weaknesses" and needs reform so it can be "efficient and effective".

Martin Levermore, the Government’s independent adviser on Windrush, acknowledged there had been criticism of the scheme from a "variety of quarters" but said overall that it is "delivering".

The latest figures show the Home Office had paid out more than £37 million on 993 claims by the end of February, out of a total 3,618 claims submitted so far.

Some 285 claims have been made for people who have already died and only 14 have currently resulted in payments so far.

Appeals have been made against decisions in almost 500 cases, while 636 eligible applicants were told they were not entitled to any money because their claims did not demonstrate they had been adversely affected by the scandal.

There have been 193 claims rejected on eligibility grounds.