It is National Windrush Day, marking the 72nd anniversary of the first big post-war migrants group arriving in Britain on HMT Empire Windrush. The campaign of former Labour councillor Patrick Vernon to get this observed day recognised by the government only succeeded when details of the Windrush scandal emerged. Two years later, there has been a review concluding that the Home Office showed “ignorance and thoughtlessness” and perpetuated “foreseeable and avoidable” injustices while operating a “culture of disbelief”. Its recommendations have not been implemented.
Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary, conducted this ‘lessons learned’ review. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night, she issued a predictable but stark warning: there is a “grave risk of something similar happening again” if government inaction continues. The compensation scheme is “not demonstrating the benefits that it should”, she said, and the police use of stop and search powers is “far from satisfactory”. As Keir Starmer and David Lammy have highlighted, announcing another review on race inequality without first implementing the recommendations of many existing reports on the same subject is deliberate procrastination and simply insulting.
Many of the criticisms levelled against the Home Office can also be applied to the Department for Work and Pensions, which similarly creates a hostile environment for already marginalised people while operating a “culture of disbelief”. The work and pensions committee has released a report this morning on the DWP’s response to coronavirus. While the department should be commended for a swift reaction, it concludes, the increased demand has further exposed flaws in the system – from the five-week wait for Universal Credit to the problems around legacy benefits.
The cross-party report recommends that legacy benefit rates are lifted and such changes are made easier, as people will be claiming them until at least 2024 according to the government, that the no recourse to public funds policy is suspended during the crisis, and that Universal Credit is made more flexible. Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds said: “This report reinforces what Labour has said since the beginning of this crisis: our social security system is not fit for purpose.” It shows that the problems are integral to the system, which is why Labour has pledged to scrap and fully replace Universal Credit.
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