The government has been accused of overseeing “a funding shambles”, after delays to a scheme for charities helping victims of the Windrush scandal.
The Home Office has apologised to more than 100 charities and community groups which are still waiting for decisions after applying to the Windrush Community Fund (WCF) last year. The government said at the time that successful applicants would receive funds within weeks.
The WCF was launched 12 months ago to help charities promote government schemes for people affected by the Windrush scandal. It is funded with £500,000 from the Home Office and is managed by Voice 4 Change England (V4CE).
New figures show that the fund has been stalled since the summer, and has made no grants at all since June. Barely half the total funding has been distributed so far.
In an email sent last month, seen by Civil Society News, the Home Office asked applicants to “accept our apologies for the delays” in distributing grants, adding that “we are aware that you have all been waiting to hear back from us for a while”.
V4CE said that it will be announcing new grants “shortly”.
Funding for people hit by Windrush scandal
The Windrush scandal occurred when hundreds of Black British citizens were denied jobs and healthcare under strict new immigration rules introduced after 2010. Some citizens were even deported from the UK or denied the right to return from overseas because they did not hold the correct documents.
The WCF was created in response to the scandal, offering up to £25,000 to grassroots charities to fund projects encouraging more people to work with the Home Office on getting the documents they needed and applying to a compensation scheme.
In January 2021, V4CE said that “funding should be released to all successful applicants within eight weeks of application submission”. It added that the grants would help “ensure all people affected by Windrush are aware of the support available and are not missing out on the schemes or latest information”.
Still ‘sifting’ applications
The fund opened to applications in two phases. The first phase started in January 2021 and closed a month later, while the second started in April and closed in June.
The Home Office said that around £270,000 had been distributed in the first phase, but that V4CE was still “sifting” applications from the second phase. As a result, more than 100 charities still have not received a decision.
In the December email to applicants apologising for the delay, a Home Office official said that V4CE was now “on the verge” of announcing the second phase of funding, and expected to do so this month.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “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 been awarded to 14 successful organisations through the first round of bids, and V4CE are currently sifting second round applications.”
Zoe Gardner, policy and advocacy manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said that the data showed Windrush victims “are still awaiting justice” and called for the remaining WCF funds “to be swiftly and fairly distributed immediately”.
Gardner added: “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.
“Many members of the Windrush generation were left jobless, homeless and indebted due to the devastating effects of this government’s hostile environment – and now, while they await compensation, many rely on charity grants to survive.”
A spokesperson for the Windrush Lives campaign group, which is led by victims of the scandal, described the funding as a “debacle” and said that the delays showed the WCF should not remain “within direct or indirect control of government”.
They said: “The scope of projects for which funding was made available is broad, but it isn’t entirely clear to victims what this money has been spent on, given in particular that it has not been possible to hold large-scale in-person events for most of the period since the fund opened.”
A spokesperson for V4CE said: “We are pleased to have a role in a fund that enhances the development of community organisations to help people who, through no fault of their own, have faced difficulties in demonstrating their lawful status in the UK, and therefore may have suffered losses as a result of this. This role works well with our strategic purpose as an advocate, supporter and provider of resources for the Black and minority ethnic (BME) sector.
“The WCF has enabled impactful work from the 14 BME organisations selected in Phase 1 of grant awards. As a BME-led organisation, we are pleased to see that this work has led to better reach to many affected BME people, helping applications to secure documentation or compensation for losses.
“Equally importantly, it has led to greater and wider understanding of the history and contribution of these immigrants. We will shortly be announcing the successful recipients of Phase 2 of the fund.”
Editor's note - 25 January 2022
After this article was published, V4CE issued a further statement explaining that the charity had completed the sifting process several months ago. The Home Office accepted that this was the case and we published a follow-up article.