How people power helped Albert Thompson get cancer treatmentApr 27, 2018
Petition starter Jacqueline Culleton with the support of 419,000 people put pressure on the UK government to help Albert Thompson*, a member of the Windrush generation, get the cancer treatment. The team at Change.org thought it was important to take a moment to recognise the actions people like you have taken as the Windrush scandal unfolded, by sharing the story of this people powered victory.
A few weeks ago, The Guardian broke the story of Albert Thompson – a member of the Windrush generation who’s lived in the UK for over 44 years. The Windrush generation are mostly Caribbean families from commonwealth countries invited to the UK to help rebuild the country after World War Two. For decades they have lived here, and contributed to society but in recent years, many have been subject to threats of deportation and their lives placed on hold. Albert’s immigration status was pulled into question – as a result he was made homeless and five months ago he was denied the radiotherapy he needed to treat prostate cancer.
Jacqueline Culleton had been a carer for family members with cancer. She says “cancer doesn’t wait” so that day she started a campaign to help Albert – to put political pressure on the Home Office to get Albert treatment on the NHS. Jacqueline’s petition quickly reached thousands of signatures, comments and gained traction in national media. Jeremy Corbyn also raised Albert’s case in Parliament. Jacqueline made contact with Praxis – the organisation supporting Albert – who showed him the petition and the public’s response to it.
£54,000 was the amount Albert needed to start receiving radiotherapy. Whilst Jacqueline continued to place political pressure on the government through her petition, she decided to start crowdfunding the cost from the British public in the meantime – who wanted to see Albert treated as soon as possible. She raised £45,000 on crowdfunding platform GoFundMe.
Stories like Albert’s from the Windrush generation continued to unfold through Amelia Gentleman’s investigative journalism for The Guardian. On the 16th April Downing Street rejects a request to meet from 12 Caribbean leaders to discuss immigration problems being experienced by British residents who arrived in the Windrush era. Backlash led to Theresa May meeting with the leaders and apologising. This hit news headlines and was referred to as the “Windrush scandal.”
Two days later, Theresa May was questioned again at Prime Minister’s questions about Albert’s case. The Prime Minister said that Albert would not be denied the treatment that he needed from the NHS. After contacting the charity working with Albert, Jacqueline learnt that despite this commitment, Albert had not been contacted by the Home Office to confirm this. She quickly mobilised her signers calling on them to tweet the government to contact Albert directly. As a result, “Albert Thompson” began to trend on Twitter.
Still in the dark about the status of Albert’s treatment, two days later Jacqueline called on her petition signers to take action by writing emails to government taskforce set-up to help the Windrush generation, asking them to urgently help Albert.
Petition starter Jacqueline also wrote this letter for The Guardian to highlight the continuation of Albert’s plight.
“People power has given Albert strength by showing that even when institutions turn away, the humanity in the British public is there for all to see.”
That evening, Jacqueline received the news that her campaign had reached victory – that she and her 419,000 signers had convinced the government to get Albert the NHS treatment he needed. Throughout the campaign, people have been leaving messages of love and support to Albert – Jacqueline will be collecting a selection of these, to give to Albert in a book.
The campaign for Albert is just one example of how times of hopeless and anger, can translate into fighting injustice and winning together. You can share this story on Facebook here.
*Albert Thompson is a pseudonym.