Home Office ‘disbands’ Windrush reform unit

Civil servants concerned commitments to reform department are being “watered down”
Windrush commemoration. Photo: Jansos/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

20 Jun 2023

The Home Office has disbanded a unit tasked with reforming the department to avoid a repeat of the Windrush scandal.

Officials in the transformation directorate were told in an online meeting that the unit will close at the end of this month, with home secretary Suella Braverman saying it is time to “move on”, according to the Guardian.

Home Office staff reportedly expressed concern at the meeting that the commitments to reform the department are “being watered down”.

“I’m worried that it signals of rolling back from the commitments that we publicly made about not repeating those mistakes. If there’s no team responsible for monitoring progress then the work won’t happen,” one official told the newspaper.

It comes after Braverman announced in January that the department was walking back on three recommendations from independent investigator Wendy William’s lessons-learned review into the Windrush scandal that ministers had previously pledged to implement.

Civil servants in two London-based teams within the directorate – one working on ethics; the other on training and monitoring progress with reform – will have their work terminated on 1 July, sources told the Guardian. A third team within the unit – which works on engagement with those affected by the scandal – will now no longer work from London and be merged with a Sheffield-based compensation team, whose work will continue.

The directorate, which is staffed by around 20 to 30 people, was expanded a few years ago to ensure Williams's recommendations were embedded into Home Office culture.

The department revealed in January that just eight of the recommendations Williams made three years ago had been met, with 13 partially implemented and nine not yet met or dropped.

Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told CSW in March the department still has “a good way to go” to implement the recommendations, adding that three years is “actually quite a short time in terms of changing the culture of a large department of state”.

This Thursday, 22 June, is the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in Britain.

A Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian the department would not comment on leaks, but said there "have and will continue to be team changes as the Windrush response is delivered".

"The government is honouring its Windrush commitments and providing support to those affected everyday. Over £72m compensation has been paid or offered already and the scheme will stay open as long as needed," the spokesperson added.

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