Home Office criticised after Windrush grants scrapped for 2022-23

24 Mar 2023 News

Home Office

Credit: Fergus Burnett

The Home Office has been criticised by civil society organisations after withdrawing a £150,000 funding pool for charities, community or grassroots organisations.

The Windrush Community Engagement Fund opened to applications in September 2022 to help organisations raise awareness of priority Home Office policies, with funding initially due to be distributed by the end of November.

Civil servants approved 15 organisations for the fund in December 2022, according to the Guardian’s reports, but the Home Office has now cancelled these approvals after advisers were concerned that two of the groups had retweeted critical social media posts about the department.

The Home Office declined to comment on the Guardian’s reports and said instead that the funding would not be awarded this year due to internal delays.

All applicants to the fund have been notified and encouraged to reapply for the next financial year (2023-24). 

‘Deeply disturbing’

According to the Guardian article, the University of Leicester Pro Bono Clinic had its grant funding questioned.

Two academics from the university told Civil Society News they found the news deeply disturbing, and were hesitant to comment on the situation in case it threatened future funding opportunities from the Home Office.

Head of Leicester Law School Sally Kyd, and legal advice clinic director Laura Bee, said: “We were disappointed to see it reported in the Guardian on 21 March that the clinic’s recent application for funding from the Home Office Windrush Community Engagement Fund had been refused, not on merit, but because a collaboration partner had reportedly retweeted mainstream press articles which were critical of government policy. Not only that, but that the entire fund was reportedly cancelled for 2022-23 due to the delay caused by internal discussions about whether or not to refuse funding to the clinic and one other organisation on a similar basis. 

“It is worrying and deeply disturbing that government funding for crucial work (raising awareness of the Windrush Compensation Fund amongst hard-to-reach communities and individuals who may not realise that they are eligible to claim) should be disrupted in this way. 

“We have hesitated to comment further on the situation, aware that by doing so, we may attract further attention from the home secretary’s private office, making it even less likely for us to receive Home Office funding in the future. Nevertheless, as academics working within a large and diverse law school, we feel duty bound to call out injustice and a threat to free speech when we see it. We owe it to our students to lead by example.”

The chair of the Windrush National Organisation (WNO), which was due to receive funding, said its relationship with the Home Office has been constructive to date.

“WNO believes that community-led engagement is intrinsic to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal and any available community engagement fund must be timely and commensurate to support the much needed engagement requirements across the affected diverse communities in the UK and abroad. 

“It is our aim to continue this working relationship with the Home Office in order to advocate better outcomes for those impacted by the Windrush scandal.”

Meanwhile, Rohini Kahrs, communications manager at the Runnymede Trust, criticised the delay in funding.

“This is a shameless move from the Home Office. It is both sinister and counterproductive to penalise community groups, working to support people whose lives were ruined by the catastrophic failures of the Home Office, for daring to criticise the very policies which led to the Windrush scandal in the first place,” she said.

“The Home Office and our government should be doing everything in its power to restore public trust in its commitment to right the wrongs of the Windrush scandal, which should start with transferring responsibility for the compensation scheme to an independent organisation. It is not enough to give with one hand and pledge to celebrate the community this year, while so flagrantly taking away with the other.”

Home Office says it regrets delays

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We regret that due to internal delays, we have decided to withdraw the Community Engagement Fund for this year as it would have left very little time for successful applicants to spend the money effectively before the end of the financial year.

“We remain committed to raising awareness of the Windrush schemes to all eligible individuals, and we will relaunch the competition for the next financial year.
“We continue to provide comprehensive engagement and information to organisations to enable them to support affected individuals.”

The department has not responded to Civil Society News’ request for further comment.

History of delays in Windrush funding

The Windrush Community Engagement Fund was launched to provide further support for charities after the £500,000 Windrush Community Fund launched in 2020. 

In January last year, the Home Office apologised to over 100 charities and community groups that were still waiting for decisions on whether they would receive funding a year after applications were submitted. 

A total of 27 charities received funding from the Home Office, amounting to over £500,000 altogether, by the end of January 2022.

Both funds aim to raise awareness of the government’s Windrush Scheme and Windrush Compensation Scheme.

These schemes were set up in the aftermath of the Windrush scandal, which saw hundreds of British citizens denied employment and healthcare under strict immigration rules. 

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