Government pushing Windrush responsibility onto councils, says PAC

7 Mar 19

The Home Office is “shirking” its responsibility in responding to the Windrush scandal and devolving the fall-out to local authorities, MPs have said.

Members of the Windrush Generation who lost jobs, benefits, homes and access to health care are being dealt with by councils, which are already “under significant pressure”, the Public Accounts Committee said yesterday.

A cross-party group of MPs said that the Home Office is “not taking ownership” of the problem and has failed to support victims of the scandal in particular around providing housing.

The scandal saw many Caribbean migrants who came to Britain in the decades following the Second World War denied access to healthcare, refused re-entry into the country or even deported, despite in some cases being elderly and frail, because they could not prove they had indefinite leave to remain.

Housing is “one of the most prominent and debilitating issues” for victims of what was known as the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, the PAC said.

The PAC report said: “The department is not taking ownership for resolving individual cases but is instead interpreting its role narrowly and using other departments’ remits as a poor excuse for inaction.

“For example, it has done little to secure urgent housing for members of the Windrush Generation, many of whom are homeless or having to rely on family members, and is content to simply leave this to local authorities which are under significant pressure.”

The report said the department’s “shirking” of responsibility “demonstrates a disconnect with the reality facing many local authorities to simply devolve responsibility and assume that the problem is resolved”.

The Home Office told the PAC that it’s ‘vulnerable persons team’ can help people with applications for benefits and registering with a GP, but cannot direct local authorities or housing associations to provide people with accommodation.

A hardship fund, aimed at compensating victims of the scandal, took eight months to set up though it is still not operating, which the PAC claims shows the Home Office “lacks any sense of urgency”.

Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “There is a long way to go before the Home Office can credibly claim to have put things right.

“It is simply not taking ownership of the problems it created, not least the urgent housing needs of many members of the Windrush Generation.

“It is deeply regrettable that a scandal of this magnitude, on the back of repeated and unheeded warnings, does not appear to have fully shaken the Home Office out of its complacency about it’s systemic and cultural problems. This must change now.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary and immigration minister have been resolute in their determination to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and have commissioned a ‘lessons learned’ review with independent oversight and scrutiny to establish what went wrong and prevent it happening again.”


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