Priti Patel is facing legal action for the Windrush Compensation Scheme’s failure to pay out to victims – with just 5 per cent receiving money in the four years since the scandal came to light.
Windrush Lives and Good Law Project are asking for control of the Home Office-run scheme to be given to an independent organisation to ensure victims receive long-awaited justice as recommended by the Home Affairs Committee to increase trust and encourage more applications.
Launched in response to the Windrush scandal that broke in 2018, the scheme has been hampered by extensive delays and “daunting bureaucratic hurdles”, leaving many of the Windrush victims “retraumatised”.
Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said: “The evidence is that the Home Office can’t be trusted to mark its own homework. The Home Affairs Committee has said what Windrush victims have said all along: the scheme has to be handed over to an independent organisation if it is to work.
“Together with Windrush Lives, we are asking Priti Patel to listen to Windrush victims and set up an independent scheme. If she really wanted to make things right, she’d do so voluntarily.”
He added: “But we think any failure would be unlawful and amenable to judicial review.”
In a 24-page pre-action protocol letter, seen by The Independent, the home secretary is given a 23 December deadline to cease operating the scheme, appoint an independent body to take over its operation and reply, before proceedings are taken further.
As a result of the scandal, Black people who lived and work in the UK over a number of decades, were detained, refused healthcare, lost their homes and jobs and were even deported after being wrongly classified as illegal immigrants by the government.
In 2019, the Home Office promised compensation to those affected for the harm it had inflicted on them and their families.
Calling for an independent body to run the scheme last month, MPs on the Home Affairs Committee said: “The treatment of the Windrush generation by successive governments and the Home Office was truly shameful. No amount of compensation could ever repay the fear, the humiliation and the hurt that was caused both to individuals and to communities affected.”
Up to 15,000 people are expected to be eligible for compensation.
Ramya Jaidev, spokesperson for Windrush Lives, said: “The Home Office has used the Windrush Compensation Scheme to perpetuate the systemic racism and ill-treatment which caused the Windrush scandal. Victims are not believed, and a significant number are excluded from the scheme altogether.
“Evidence which cannot exist by definition is demanded of them, and when they cannot produce it, insultingly low values are placed on the suffering they have endured.
“At least 23 victims have already died without compensation, and the Home Office has shown repeatedly that it does not care, despite repeated claims that it is ‘righting the wrongs’ done to Windrush victims. Enough is enough.”
Dominic Akers-Paul, 28, who was affected by the Windrush scandal is one of the many people still awaiting £40,000 compensation. He was left stateless and denied a passport despite being born in the UK – a move that the Home Office later admitted had been a mistake.
“The Windrush Compensation Scheme has been a continuation of the pain and suffering that caused me to be eligible for the scheme in the first place,” he said.
“I have been forced to recount painful experiences to the same people who caused them, only to have that devalued by a demeaningly low offer. The Home Office needs to do the right thing and hand the scheme over to an independent body.”
He continued: “My ordeal will remain with me forever; I missed my grandmothers funeral as she was buried in Grenada, I was unable to go on any international school trips and it prevented me taking up an engineering apprenticeship after GCSEs as when it was time to chose I was still without a passport and therefore unable to prove my right to work in the UK.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary and the department remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that members of the Windrush generation receive every penny of compensation that they are entitled to. We firmly believe that moving the operation of the scheme out of the Home Office would risk significantly delaying those vital payments.
“The Home Secretary overhauled the Scheme in December 2020 to ensure more money is paid more quickly – since then the amount of compensation paid has risen from less than £3 million to over £31.6 million, with a further £5.6 million having been offered. There is no cap on the amount of compensation we will pay out.
“We continue to make improvements, such as simplifying the application process, hiring more caseworkers and removing the scheme end date.”
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