Black official quit ‘racist’ Windrush compensation scheme

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Exclusive: Former senior Home Office employee Alexandra Ankrah says some colleagues showed ‘complete lack of humanity’

Complaints of racism and discrimination within Home Office teams set up to address the Windrush scandal prompted the launch of an internal investigation and the resignation of a senior official, the Guardian has learned.

The most senior black Home Office employee in the team responsible for the Windrush compensation scheme resigned this year, describing the scheme as systemically racist and unfit for purpose, it can be revealed.

The Guardian has also learned that a separate set of complaints about discrimination within a different Home Office team researching the causes of the Windrush scandal led to an earlier internal investigation.

About 20 members of staff working on the independent Windrush Lessons Learned review by Wendy Williams were interviewed by a civil service “equality, diversity and inclusion” officer after allegations of racially discriminatory treatment were made by minority ethnic staff members.

Alexandra Ankrah, a former barrister who worked as head of policy in the Windrush compensation scheme, said she resigned because she lost confidence in a programme that she alleged was “not supportive of people who have been victims” and which “doesn’t acknowledge their trauma”.

Several proposals she made to improve the scheme were rejected, she said. “The results speak for themselves: the sluggishness of getting money to people, the unwillingness to provide information and guidance that ordinary people can understand.”

She was troubled by the fact that several Home Office staff responsible for the compensation scheme had previously helped implement the hostile environment policies that had originally caused claimants so many problems.

By the end of October, the compensation scheme had been running for 18 months and only £1.6m had been paid out to 196 people. Officials had originally expected thousands to apply and estimated that the government might eventually have to pay out between £200m and £570m. At least nine people have died before receiving compensation they applied for.

The Home Office said it rejected any suggestion that the scheme was discriminatory.

Ankrah’s concerns were echoed by whistleblowers from the Lessons Learned review, who felt uneasy that entrenched Home Office styles of working made staff insensitive on the issue of race. “The irony was that the very review team that was investigating what the Home Office thinks is past injustice was doing it in a way that was upholding all the systemic racism that exists in the Home Office,” one team member who was interviewed as part of the internal investigation said.