Campaigner Patrick Vernon calls on MPs to deliver restorative justice through Windrush Compensation Bill
PUBLISHED: 13:26 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:04 24 January 2020
A Windrush campaigner and former Hackney councillor is calling on MPs to deliver restorative justice to victims by making amendments to the Windrush Compensation Bill.
Patrick Vernon OBE, who led the successful campaign for a recognised Windrush Day, wants MPs to help right the wrongs of the scandal at the bill's second reading in the House of Commons.
He has launched a petition detailing a 10-point plan he wants home secretary Priti Patel to adopt, and needs people to lobby their MPs to back it.
"We have to make sure there is accountability," Patrick told the Gazette. "MPs have the opportunity in parliament now to make sure they are raising the issue on behalf of the Windrush Generation.
"There has been some success, we got the government to admit they were wrong and got a compensation scheme, but there is still a long way to go."
The 10-point plan includes a £10,000 automatic payment to anyone affected without the need for documenting financial loss, letters of apology and a dedicated counselling and therapy service for victims.
"The scheme now is done on the basis of: 'If you have lost money we will give it you back'," said Patrick. "If you've been traumatised and lost your job they can quantify that. But how do you quantify ruined health?
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"It should be done on the principles of restorative justice. This is about changing the burden of proof so the state admits it's done wrong as opposed to someone having to make a claim to justify how they have been wronged - and having to justify their existence again."
He wants the Home Office to work with the Department for Health and NHS England on the therapy service.
"A lot of people are traumatised by the hostile environment experience," Patrick added. "But if you want to access any services there's a six-to-nine month wait on the NHS.
"There should be a special service working with counsellors who understand the experiences of the Windrush Generation who can provide immediate support."
Patrick also wants the compensation scheme, launched in April last year, to be managed by another government department and not the Home Office, which is still implementing the "hostile environment" policies introduced by Theresa May.
About 8 per cent of Hackney's population is of Afro-Caribbean ethnic background and it's believed the borough is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation.
In 2018 the council backed a motion by Cllr Carole Williams pledging to oppose the criminalisation of Windrush families, calling for an end to the hostile environment policies and demanding the government supports advice agencies helping victims.
Making the scheme more accessible, funding community and faith groups and sending out letters of apology are also included in Patrick's demands. The Windrush Justice Fund, which he launched with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, has already raised £40,000 to give to community groups helping victims, but he wants the government to take responsibility.