This column appeared in the Friday 16th June 2023 edition of the South London Press.
On the 22nd June, it will be 75 years since the HMT Empire Windrush first arrived in the UK in 1948. Windrush, and many other ships like it, brought passengers from across the Commonwealth to help fill post-war labour shortages. Some of these passengers were veterans of WW2, and many would go on to become workers helping to repair post-war Britain or nurses working in the newly established NHS. The Windrush Generation has since become synonymous with a new, diverse, forward-looking Britain.
However, after the Home Office revealed in April 2018 that it had kept no records of those granted permission to stay, many who arrived as part of the Windrush Generation and who had lived in the UK for most of their lives could not prove they were legal residents and were denied access to healthcare and benefits. It was, frankly, beyond shameful. The Home Office has previously said that it is “committed to righting the wrongs of Windrush” and has offered compensation to those who have been victimised through the Windrush Compensation Scheme. Four years after the scheme opened, many are still waiting to see this compensation.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on the 29th May, I asked if the Government would commit to ensuring that those eligible finally get the compensation that they deserve. In response, I received no commitment. This Government, like the Conservative governments that have come before it, do not give this issue the attention that it desperately deserves. The needs of the Windrush Generation are still being ignored, even as we celebrate 75 years of their immense contribution to our country.
In 2021, the Home Affairs Committee, a group of cross-party MPs, found that many who were eligible for compensation were “still too fearful of the Home Office” to apply for the scheme and that only 5% of those who were eligible had been paid. It is crucial that we address this deficit so that those who deserve compensation receive it.
In Lewisham, Deputy Mayor Brenda Dacres has been running Windrush advice surgeries for the Windrush Generation and their descendants alongside myself, Ellie Reeves MP, and Janet Daby MP in our respective constituencies. If you are a constituent and are currently trying to apply for the Windrush Compensation Scheme or have any other related questions or issues, please do get in touch. For more information on this, please visit the ‘Windrush’ page on Brenda’s website.
Please also visit Lewisham Council’s website’s ‘Windrush Day’ page to find out more about the variety of fantastic events happening in our community to celebrate Windrush Day 2023. It is so important that we celebrate and honour the amazing individuals in our community who have contributed so much to Lewisham and to our country.