Patrick Vernon makes the case for a national health and wellbeing programme to confront the post-traumatic impact of the self-styled “hostile environment” policies imposed by government upon the Windrush Generation and their descendants.
Theresa May’s response to the Windrush scandal will be remembered for selective apologies and a flawed compensation scheme.
Now that Boris Johnson is in power we need a 10-point Windrush plan, not only to restore the confidence of the black community, but also to resolve 70 years of breaches of human rights and racism towards the Windrush Generation and their descendants.
The hostile environment ideology, policies and practices need to be scrapped. They are clearly inherently racist in nature and breach the Public Sector Equality Duty, which has its origins in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 that arose from the Stephen Lawrence (Macpherson) public inquiry into what was shown to be a racist murder.
The Home Office clearly does not have the leadership, cultural competency and empathy to manage the current process of citizenship and the compensation scheme that was established.
- See also: First suspected Windrush suicide symbolises 'multi-generational trauma' of state persecution
- See also: 'Windrush unwelcome' - why the past is forever present in our collective mental health
The Windrush Generation and their children should have automatic citizenship status without going through the humiliation and degradation of proving their citizenship to Home Office staff. And deportations should not be applied to the Windrush Generation and their descendants irrespective of a criminal conviction. This would require also widening the definition of Windrush, meaning black and brown people need to have the same ancestry rights as white people from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Windrush Scandal exposes the issues of identity and belonging of the African and Caribbean community in Britain. The oral and personal histories of the Windrush generation and their descendants is a rich source of information for future generations as part of British history and cultural identity.
Hostile Environment trauma
One of the major consequences and impact of the Windrush Scandal and hostile environment is around health and wellbeing. My observations working with victims and their families is that the government have socially engineered ‘Hostile Environment trauma’, caused by loss of liberty and detention; degradation and humiliation; death; attempted suicide, bereavement; anxiety and depression; hypertension and stroke; food deprivation; isolation and loneliness; deportation fatigue; and intergenerational trauma.
We require a national health and wellbeing programme around the post-traumatic impact of the hostile environment on the Windrush Generation and their descendants. This needs funding and commissioning for culturally relevant and specific organisations, who can provide range of therapeutic and counselling services. This requires an urgent round table meeting at Number 10 with NHS England, The Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office and professional bodies such as the various Royal Colleges covering GPs, Psychiatry, Nursing. Various counselling/therapy bodies working with black health professionals also need to be there, along with the victims of the scandal and campaigners. We can establish and develop a plan of action to support the mental and physical health of the Windrush Generation and their children and grandchildren.
Governmental failure and systematic discrimination of the Windrush Generation over the last 70 years, in undermining their citizenship status and human rights, has to be part of a wider comprehensive and restorative programme for the whole black community in Britain. The Race Disparity Unit, if this still exists under Boris Johnson, will be critical to a cross government approach covering education, heritage, criminal justice, housing, employment and state pension and benefits.
Patrick Vernon OBE is as Windrush and mental health campaigner
Listen to the Voice of Windrush on Colourful Radio with presenters Sinai Fleary and Patrick Vernon on Thursday 1st, 8th and 15th of August between 9am to 10am for a three part special show exploring Windrush Scandal and mental health with victims of the scandal and mental health professionals.