The Home Office has admitted that its charity partner is not to blame for delays in distributing funding from a scheme to support people affected by the Windrush scandal.
In December the Home Office said that Voice 4 Change England (V4CE), the charity administering the Windrush Community Fund (WCF) on its behalf, was still processing applications to the fund.
However, government officials acknowledged yesterday that V4CE actually completed this work last July, after the charity insisted that it had “no involvement in any delay” to the WCF.
The £500,000 scheme was set up a year ago in response to the Windrush scandal, to fund grassroots charities working with people who needed new government documents or might be eligible for compensation.
Barely half of the WCF has been distributed so far. Applicants were told to expect a decision within weeks, but more than 100 voluntary organisations and community groups are still waiting for news on applications made in the second phase of the fund in summer 2021.
V4CE: Home Office claim is ‘incorrect’
Asked late last year about delays to the WCF, the Home Office told Civil Society News that “V4CE are currently sifting second round applications” to the fund.
V4CE did not address this claim at the time, but a charity spokesperson yesterday said that this claim was “incorrect”.
They added: “V4CE administers the fund. To do this we first sift applications, then compile a shortlist and make recommendations to members of the Windrush Working Group. We do not make decisions on awards.
“Our sifting process was completed on 20 July 2021 and there is email evidence showing this.
“We then had no further role to play in administration or any other matter connected with the decision-making of Phrase 2 awards, and therefore had no involvement in any delay in the implementation of this phase.”
Home Office statement changed
A Home Office spokesperson subsequently admitted that V4CE “completed sifting the applications in July 2021”, several months earlier than the department previously claimed, and that shortlisting for grants was ongoing in December.
They added: “The WCF was established to help community organisations spread awareness of the Windrush Compensation Scheme and to ensure victims get the compensation they deserve.
“Over £270,000 has already been awarded to 14 successful organisations through the WCF, and the second phase of funding will be announced imminently.
“We received a high number of applications and it’s right that we take the time to allocate the money so that we can reach as many people as possible.”
Campaigners have previously described the delays as a “debacle”.
Zoe Gardner, policy and advocacy manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said earlier this month: “The very least this government could do is deliver the compensation and support it promised to. But this latest funding shambles demonstrates the continued disregard this government shows victims.”
A spokesperson for the advocacy group Windrush Lives said the funding scheme was a “debacle” and that the WCF should be removed from the government’s control.