A charity helping people Britain deports to Jamaica has been told it will now receive money from the UK after BuzzFeed News revealed the Home Office stopped funding it just three days before the announcement of a Windrush compensation scheme.
Until April 1, the National Organisation of Deported Migrants (NODM) in Jamaica had received a stream of funding from the Home Office via the British High Commission over seven years. After reducing the funds given over the last three years, the British government stopped the money altogether at the end of the financial year.
BuzzFeed News first contacted the Home Office last week and made further phone calls on Monday morning pressing for more detail as to why they were no longer supporting the charity. Then on Monday afternoon, as BuzzFeed News’ story was published, the High Commission emailed the charity to say it would be able to provide some funding after all.
Oswald Dawkins, president of NODM, told BuzzFeed News: “The timing is a bit suspicious. The Home Office don’t like scandals and things going off in the press.”
BuzzFeed News understands the new funding will start in May and be piecemeal, rather than an annual amount. NODM will be asked to help individuals and then invoice for the work.
Dawkins said: “They have secured funding to continue at least some of the services that we used to provide, which will be transportation, meeting people at the airport, and redocumentation. However, it’s reduced funding.
“It will be based on actuals. A person comes and they say to us, for example, 'We know there’s a person coming in and we need you to meet that person'.”
Dawkins, who is now working on a voluntary basis and had to let all paid staff go, says that funding on a piecemeal basis will present problems.
“We’d only be able to have a skeleton staff. We’d have a driver and a caregiver who’s usually a female who goes along with the driver to provide a welcome to the person. That’s the bare bones. They’re not going to cover rental of an office for administrative purposes or any other purpose. We still will have to continue with whatever bare bones we have.”
This is not the first time the Home Office has attempted to make a quick fix as a result of negative media attention. BuzzFeed News revealed last year that the Home Office had a special fast-track system to solve decisions on cases exposed in the media.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said of the abrupt change: “This scandal should never have happened. But the government cannot change policy on the basis of what embarrassed them in the media today. This is not the way to handle decisions that so significantly impact lives. The various extensions of the Tories hostile environment policies show that they have still not learnt the lessons of Windrush.”
The Home Office told BuzzFeed News that all reintegration partners, of which NODM was one, were made aware at the end of 2018 that the department was actively trying to secure alternative funding for 2019–20 because the existing arrangements were coming to an end.
The Home Office claims the new funding was decided on April 4, the day that BuzzFeed News first contacted them for a response. But officials acknowledged that Watkins was not contacted by anyone until Monday, the day the article was published.
Either way, Watkins cannot understand why the existing arrangement was allowed to lapse before more money was found. He said: “They knew that at the end of March the funding would come to an end so we would want the secure funding before that comes to an end and seek funds thereafter. They let it lapse.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office continues to work with non-governmental organisations that provide support on arrival for returnees. The level of support varies and is based on the needs of the returnee.
“We are committed to ensuring safe and dignified returns and reintegration is a key part of that."