Home Office accused of ‘aggravating’ Windrush suffering after admitting only one person helped by hardship scheme

Lawyers say people caught up in scandal have fallen into destitution due to ‘shocking’ delays

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 07 February 2019 19:43
David Lammy accuses government of ‘pandering to far right’ after three more Windrush deaths revealed

Ministers have been accused of “aggravating” the suffering of Windrush citizens after admitting only one person has been helped by a hardship scheme set up for those affected.

In the government’s latest Windrush update, Sajid Javid said that of 16 people who had requested support under the special hardship fund, created in December, five had been declined, 10 were still under consideration and just one had been approved.

Lawyers warned that as a result of delays and difficulty receiving pay-outs, people who had been identified as having been wrongly targeted by immigration controls had fallen into destitution.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the fact that the fund had only helped one person was “shocking” and urged the home secretary to urgently review the operation of the scheme so that people are not “further let down”.

In one case, a woman who was brought back to the UK after being wrongly removed from the UK was told by the Home Office that she should go to a charity shop to get a fridge and a cooker.

Jocelyne John, who had lived in the UK for 53 years before being removed to the Caribbean, had to wait for more than six weeks to receive assistance, according to her solicitor.

In another case, Vernon Vanriels, who was brought back to Britain in September, has been left waiting to receive help two months after requesting assistance to buy winter clothing and equipment to return to boxing coaching.

His solicitor, Jacqueline McKenzie of McKenzie Beute and Pope, said that despite a “very modest” sum being approved by the scheme for Mr Vanriels, he had received nothing except a letter stating that he needed medical evidence to show that he was fit to do boxing coaching.

The hardship scheme was set up in December, six months after the committee recommended its creation. Meanwhile, a separate compensation scheme that has been promised by the Home Office is still not in place.

Ms McKenzie said: “I’m concerned that we’re told one thing is happening but the practice appears to be very different. These delays are aggravating features of people’s pain and suffering, and are really inexplicable.”

Ms Cooper claimed the statistics from the home secretary “simply didn’t match” the hardship the committee has observed among Windrush citizens who have been wrongly targeted by immigration enforcement.

“While the compensation scheme is still not up and running, the Home Office should be making every effort to support Windrush citizens, alerting people to support that’s available and proactively offering it,” she added.

In the update, Mr Javid also revealed that of the 83 individuals found to have been wrongly removed from the UK, 10 have since died. The Home Office has made contact with 52, while they have been unable to contact a further 21.

More than one in five Windrush scheme decisions have failed to be made within the Home Office’s two-week target, the update showed. The Independent revealed last year that delays in the process had prevented people attending family funerals and heightened their anxiety.

Overall, a total of 2,453 people have been given documentation confirming status. The majority were from the Caribbean islands, with the second most common nationality from India (107) and the third Nigeria (60).

Mr Javid said the Vulnerable Persons Team, a separate scheme designed to provide help and advice where vulnerability issues are identified, has provided support to 614 individuals, with 52 cases ongoing, and continues to receive 10 to 20 new referrals each week.

Sajid Javid accused by Yvette Cooper of breaking promise by 'gagging' Windrush victims in return for fast-track compensation

The home secretary told the committee: “I continue to believe it is important that we take a cross party-approach which recognises the most important thing we can do is ensure the wrongs which some members of the Windrush generation have faced are put right.

“I can reassure members that my department remains entirely focused on righting the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation.”

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