DEDICATED: Windrush Help Team is available to help South Asians who are unable to prove their lawful status in the UK
ABID is part of the Government’s Windrush Help Team, dedicated to helping eligible people get the documents they need to demonstrate their right to live and work in the UK and to claim compensation.
Today, we speak to Abid about his role.
How would you describe an average week?
To be honest, no one week is the same. I can personally speak to up to 15 to 20 people a day. And the callers I speak to are from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds – each with a unique experience.
What is the greatest misconception South Asians have about the Windrush Schemes?
Probably that you can only get help if you are from the Caribbean. I’m from a Pakistani background and although I had heard about the Windrush issue before I started this job, l genuinely didn’t think it affected people from my community. I really believe many South Asians think this way too, as we wrongly assume that because there were no South Asians on board the ship HMT Empire Windrush, they are automatically not part of the “Windrush generation” and so aren’t entitled to gain help from the schemes even if they lost out on things such as healthcare, housing or jobs due to their inability to demonstrate their lawful status in the UK. Another misconception is that because we are part of the Home Office, people’s details will be passed on to Immigration Enforcement, which will result in them being detained or removed from the country. This is absolutely not true as anything and everything you tell a member of the Help Team is treated with sensitivity and will not be passed to Immigration Enforcement. Only people that have been trained to work on the Windrush issue will have access to your personal information.
What’s the greatest misconception about the work you do?
People tend to think that this job is discouraging because you are dealing with people that have been through difficult times – but I have to say this isn’t the case for me. I see this job as a good thing, as you are part of the solution, and can help make a positive difference to someone’s life. Most of my colleagues genuinely feel this way too, and I honestly have to say that working with like-minded people makes this role, and this team, one of the best I’ve ever had.
What qualities are important to doing this role?
It goes without saying that you need to be organised, a strong communicator and be committed to solving problems. But one of the most important qualities is empathy, as you need to understand that the people you are speaking to have been through challenging times. Even if they are short with you, or get upset, you must always remember to put yourself in their shoes and realise that they are acting from a position of fear or pain.
What advice would you give members of the South Asian community?
If you or your parents came to the UK from countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka before the end of 1988, and are unable to prove your status, then pick up the phone and call the Windrush Help Line number.
The number to call the Help Team is free, and everything you tell us will be treated with the strictest confidence and will not be shared with Immigration Enforcement.
Even if you don’t know what paperwork you need to prove you have the right to work or live in the UK, we can help. Just call us.
To learn if you can receive help from the Windrush Scheme and the Windrush Compensation Scheme, even if you are unsure of the documents you need, visit GOV.UK/WindrushHelpTeam or call the FREE helpline 0800 678 1925 for assistance.