The Lessons to be learnt from the “unintended consequences” of the Windrush Generation saga – EDIA 101

Over the past few months, the UK government has come under fire for its treatment of the ‘Windrush Generation’ and their families. Arriving on these shores between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries – at Britain’s invitation, and as a response to post-war labour shortages – the Windrush Generation were Commonwealth citizens, thus British citizens, and included children who arrived on their parents’ passports. Some say it’s a national scandal, some say it’s simply the manifestation of an increasingly hostile environment towards black people in this country.

After the 1971 Immigration Act came into force, Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given the Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, it appears that the Home Office did not maintain records of those granted Leave to Remain or issue paperwork to confirm their status. The subsequent changes to The Immigration Act in 2014 requires people to have documentation to work, access benefits and rent a property – resulting in a situation where those who lacked the required documents lost homes and jobs and had their treatment for critical medical conditions including cancer withheld. Also, many were sent to Immigration Removal Detention Centres – and threatened with deportation to countries they left over 50 years ago.

Despite the Prime Minister’s apology to 12 Caribbean heads of government on 17th April 2018, it is still unclear how many of these British citizens have been deported and how this whole debacle has affected the health and wellbeing of uncountable families. Over the past few days, it has also been revealed that in 2010, landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants – which provided names, dates of arrival and in some cases, the name of the ship – were destroyed by the Home Office.

As policy makers begin a soul-searching exercise to understand how this was allowed to happen and establish safeguards to ensure similar situations do not occur in future, it would be prudent to recognise that effective Equality & Diversity Impact Assessments (EDIAs) coupled with proper community and stakeholder engagement could have prevented the perceived discrimination and disadvantages so many people have now experienced, whilst creating a trusted platform to tackle the perceptions that a new institutional racism is now increasing.

About Equality & Diversity Impact Assessments (EDIAs)

An EDIA is a process that enables organisations to analyse their policies, practices and procedures to make sure they do not discriminate or disadvantage people. At Green Park, our Diversity and Inclusion Practice supports organisations to ensure their policies, practices and procedures do not discriminate against any groups and to help them leverage the full benefits of a diverse workforce and client/customer base. We do this by developing EDIAs that are fundamental to their decision making and policy development processes. Our commitment to inclusivity means that we approach each EDIA with a commitment to ensuring that it is not another administrative ‘tick-box’ exercise.

Without a doubt, if a robust EDIA along with a thorough community and stakeholder consultation exercise had been carried out when the new immigration policies were being developed, it is safe to assume that the evidence and information gathered would have made clear the potential risk that a large number would suffer greatly because of their circumstances.

We can be confident that the current practices that have led to a series of “Unintended Consequences” which have now impacted so negatively on the Windrush Generation and many other groups associated with them could have been mitigated and alternative arrangements made to build in practical safeguards as part of the policy.

Green Park passionately believes that part of your brand promise is that we must help everyone follow the required equality legislation and best practice. This will ensure that Diversity & Inclusion can truly flourish in all forms across our society and different sectors. Organisations that truly wish to ensure that their policies, practices and procedures do not disadvantage people; staff, service users, providers/suppliers and customers in any way, which can then possibly lead to a series of “Unintended Consequences” as witnessed in the last week or so, can do so using EDIAs.

We recommend that organisations and employers in all sectors consider the following lessons learnt so they conduct effective EDIAs or buy them from sensible, strong, independent sources who will help not hinder progress though their lived experience.

  • Timing: While EDIAs can be conducted retrospectively, we recommend that the process is more effective when adopted as part of a preventative, future –planning approach during the development of a new policy or practice. This will ensure that those elements that could cause discrimination or disadvantage are considered at a time when any negative effects can be minimised or eliminated. And at the very least reasonable and practical safeguards are developed and built in to mitigate any risk of intended or unintended bias and or disadvantage as the new policy and procedure is rolled out.
  • Design: At Green Park, we acknowledge that each organisation is unique, so we design bespoke, nimble EDIAs that are adapted to each organisation’s business model, client group, service users and evolving stakeholders. We recognise the unique risks that could not only disadvantage certain groups but potentially damage an organisation’s brand reputation and profitability.
  • Implementation: While the Equalities Act 2010 identifies nine protected characteristics, experience has shown us that difference is never static and intersectionality is the norm. As a result, we recommend that those involved in carrying out an EDIA should always have a thorough knowledge of Diversity and Inclusion issues and concepts. This will enable them to effectively assess the degree to which a policy or practice could affect some people – so it does not become a ‘tick-box’ exercise.
  • Collaboration: At Green Park, we know that Diversity and Inclusion issues and concepts are multifarious and complex so an effective, holistic EDIA should involve the input of various experts to avoid any blind spots. This ensures that the evidence that is needed to conduct an effective EDIA is credible, robust and up-to-date.
  • User-Input: The most important element of an effective EDIA is ensuring that the voices of those who are likely to be disadvantaged by a policy or practice are heard. This will ensure that the EDIA truly addresses the groups that are most relevant. Green Park is proud to be working with a wide range and diverse group of partners. They all have both a credible and extensive reach to community and grassroots organisations that may feel the impact of any new policies being developed by organisations and employers in the many different sectors across the UK. We are only too happy to support organisations and employers and facilitate access to these important groups and communities.

In very simple terms, an effective, robust and credible EDIA should be a normal part of every organisation’s standard risk assessment policy and practice. It can and should be included in forward looking change programme and project plans which will have clear lines of governance, assurance, risk management and ultimately accountability.

In relation to the Windrush debacle which has now become an international and diplomatic reputational issue for the UK and its image on the world stage. It is safe to assume that had policy makers and key decision makers conducted / listened to a robust EDIA that involved the voices of those who belonged to the Windrush Generation, it is very likely that the process would have highlighted immigration policies and practices that would cause the avoidable chaos and perceived discrimination we have all witnessed in recent weeks.

Ultimately, this would not have led to a series of “Unintended Consequences” that has very sadly and dramatically affected the lives of so many innocent people, their families and communities in both the UK and abroad.

If you wish to discuss how Green Park can support your organisation, by ensuring your policies, practices and procedures do not discriminate or disadvantage any groups, contact us here.