Windrush Lessons Learned Review: letter to UK Government

Letter from the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development following the publication of Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned Review: progress update.

To: Kevin Foster MP, Minister for Safe and Legal Migration
Neil Gray MSP, Minister for Culture Europe and International Development

I am writing to you following the publication of Wendy Williams 'Windrush Lessons Learned Review: progress update’ on 31 March 2022.

The UK Government’s treatment of the Windrush Generation was morally wrong and entirely avoidable. As the Home Secretary herself said following the publication of Wendy Williams ''The review was damning about the conduct of the Home Office and unequivocal about the “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the race and the history of the Windrush generation… I was clear that when Wendy Williams published her lessons learned review, I would listen and act. I have heard what she has said, and I will be accepting the recommendations that she has made in full."

This progress report therefore provided the Home Office with the opportunity to show that the department had learned lessons from the Windrush scandal. Sadly, and predictably, this report shows that the Home Office has not. Of the 30 recommendations from the ‘Lessons Learned Review’, only eight have been fully met, despite the Home Office’s attempts to close off some recommendations following self-assessment. Given the Home Secretary’s acceptance of all 30 recommendations only 18 months ago, this is alarmingly slow progress.

The report expresses concern about the pace of change within the department; that any progress that has been made has largely been led by junior rather than senior officials; and that the department still does not appear willing to open itself to external scrutiny. On the latter point, the failure to appoint a Migrants Commissioner shows both a lack of commitment to respond to the scandal and a wider disregard for independent scrutiny of the Home Office. An update on the progress of this recommendation should be prioritised and shared with the Scottish Government.

Rather than right the wrongs of the Windrush scandal, the Home Office seems intent on making short-term, small scale changes that fail to address the significant culture change required. 65% of respondents to Wendy Williams’ external survey stated there had been no progress at all or only some progress in changing the Home Office’s culture since the publication of their Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP) following the ‘Lessons Learned Review’. Even within the department itself, more staff members responded to the survey by saying they were pessimistic rather than optimistic that the CIP would lead to a positive change of culture. These figures highlight a complete breakdown in trust, both internally and externally, in the ability of the Home Office to show the cultural change expected by Wendy Williams Lessons Learned Review. I urge the UK Government to make the necessary changes to ensure the 30 recommendations they committed to meeting are achieved as quickly as possible to support the necessary culture change.

Of course, underpinning all of these issues is the Home Office’s insistence on pursuing hostile environment policies, despite the clear evidence presented by events like the Windrush scandal. Wendy Williams outlines in this report the importance of a comprehensive review of this policy, stating: “Given its central significance to the Windrush scandal and the workings of the department, the failure to complete the review of the compliant environment policy will fundamentally hamper the department’s efforts to learn lessons and move on constructively.”

Regrettably, it is clear that the wider policy agenda that the UK Government is pursuing is not compatible with the reform required within the Home Office. This has been shown by the deeply concerning Nationality and Borders Bill, which the Scottish Government continue to oppose. This Bill will harm people living in communities across Scotland and the UK, now and in the future, and will mean that the terrible policy decisions which led to the Windrush scandal are more likely to be repeated than avoided.

Wendy Williams progress report further highlights that people are unhappy with the Windrush Compensation Scheme, with the external survey identifying that 97% of people who had applied for the Windrush Scheme and accompanying Compensation Scheme do not trust the Home Office to deliver on its commitments. The previous Minister for Culture, Europe and International, Jenny Gilruth MSP, wrote to you regarding the scathing Home Affairs Selection Committee Report into the Compensation Scheme in December 2021, to which the Scottish Government is yet to receive a response. I would appreciate a response to the points raised in both that letter and this one.

I have copied this letter to the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson MSP, and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP.

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