Windrush Scandal Lessons Learned Review Progress Update Due Early 2022
It has been quite some time since the Windrush Lessons Learned Review (WLLR) was published in March 2020 by Wendy Williams, which outlined a series of recommendations to the Home Office. The document stated its recommendations could be “boiled down to three elements: the Home Office must acknowledge the wrong which has been done; it must open itself up to greater external scrutiny; and it must change its culture to recognise that migration and wider Home Office policy is about people and, whatever its objective, should be rooted in humanity. Some recommendations relate specifically to the immigration system; others relate more broadly to the department as a whole”. The challenge for the Home Office is that not only have they had to adopt some measures recommended, they have also had to deal with Brexit and COVID-19. Nevertheless, the Home Office has recently published the terms of reference for a progress update on how the department has changed in response to the WLLR recommendations.
What are the aims of the progress update due in 2022?
The review is intended to provide an ‘independent assessment’ of how the Home Office has responded to the WLLR and the department’s comprehensive improvement plan published in September 2020 (which responded to the WLLR). The original WLLR included a series of recommendations under four categories:
- righting the wrongs of the past
- safeguarding the Windrush generation and others
- improving leadership and culture
- improving policymaking
- improving operational practice
In total, there were 30 recommendations made in the WLLR, which the response document dealt with in turn. The Home Office outlined any measures already in place or where a gap was identified, and they outlined how improvements will be made within the department. The improvement plan itself was an action from recommendation two of the WLLR, which stated, “Recommendation 2 – The department should publish a comprehensive improvement plan within six months of this report, which takes account of all its recommendations, on the assumption that I will return to review the progress made in approximately 18 months’ time”.
The progress review has three core objectives; to establish:
- the adequacy of the comprehensive improvement plan in relation to achieving the WLLR recommendations
- how well the plan has been implemented to date in relation to the recommendations of the WLLR
- to what extent, implementation of the plan is leading to the wider cultural and systemic change within the department that the WLLR identified as being necessary
What types of changes are the Home Office making in the wake of the Windrush scandal?
The Home Office didn’t dismiss the recommendations and findings in the WLLR, with the Home Secretary stating in June 2020, “there are serious and significant lessons for the Home Office to learn in relation to the way the Department operates”. Some improvements the Home Office agreed to consider include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Keeping the Windrush Compensation scheme open until at least 2023
- Putting in place a history training programme across the Home Office’s departments – by June 2021
- Implementing new software to track external and internal recommendations – by September 2021
- A full review and evaluation of the compliant environment policy and measures, individually and cumulatively
- A programme of cultural change – to be implemented by the end of 2021
- Other new training programmes (e.g. community engagement training and diversity and inclusion training programmes)
- A planned review of the role and remit of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI)
- Recruit additional external experts to the Home Office’s existing Race Board
How will the progress report be prepared?
The report will be prepared by an independent Advisor with the authority to look at the actions and progress of the relevant Home Office departments. The Home Office, for their part, say they will provide a “self-assessment evidence document, which identifies the progress it has made, details of any gaps and the reason for those gaps, timescales for completion and whether it considers it has achieved the overall objective of the recommendation and/or theme”. The independent Advisor will also have the authority to select and interview current and former ministers and internal staff within the Home Office during the fact-gathering stage. Where possible, any additional policy, operations, and casework documents, and any other information will also be shared with the independent Advisor, “subject to the requirements of the law, national security and any pre-existing constraints with information management”.
When will the progress review on the Home Office Windrush improvements be ready?
The plan is for the report to be ready in draft form in February 2022 and to be published in its final form by the end of March 2022. The Home Office states, “The active fieldwork will commence on 29 September 2021 (1 year on from the publication of the Comprehensive Improvement Plan), and the report will be provided to the department for fact-checking by mid-February to allow for any representations to be made from individuals and the department, as required, ahead of the final report being published. The aim is that the Home Secretary will publish the final report by 31 March 2022, subject to unforeseen circumstances”.
People close to the Windrush scandal on all sides will be watching closely when the progress report is published in March 2022. Those directly affected have the right for the concerns and recommendations raised to be taken seriously by the Home Office and to have the improvements they committed to implemented or at least be well underway. Such were the failings that led to the Windrush Scandal, any appearance by the Home Office that they have not taken the action necessary will no doubt be judged harshly.