Home Office accused of ‘failing’ Windrush victims after only one in six receive final compensation

Department’s compensation scheme remains ‘beset’ with problems, say MPs

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 27 July 2021 12:02
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<p>A woman at a protest in Windrush Square, Brixton, in solidarity with Windrush scandal victims</p>

A woman at a protest in Windrush Square, Brixton, in solidarity with Windrush scandal victims

The Home Office compensation scheme for victims of the Windrush scandal remains “beset” with problems and continues to fail those waiting for payments, a damning new report from MPs has found.

Only one in six victims have received payment in full – more than two years on from the launch of the scheme aimed at compensating Britons misclassified as illegal immigrants and threatened with deportation.

The Public Accounts Committee criticised home secretary Priti Patel’s department for taking “far too long” to issue compensation – saying only 412 of the 2,367 victims who submitted claims have received their final payment.

The committee said the Home Office was failing the Windrush generation all over again with the lengthy payment delays and “still risks seeming indifferent to the impact it has had on people’s lives”.

Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “Far from learning and applying lessons as promised, the Windrush compensation scheme is beset with the very same issues that led to the initial terrible mistakes.”

Ms Hillier added: “Let’s not lose sight of the scale of wrongs that the Home Office has promised to right here.

“Lifetimes in this country were discounted, people’s homes, families and livelihoods were interrupted and uprooted, some were forced from the country ... Some have died without ever seeing justice or receiving the compensation they deserve.”

The Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) was launched in April 2019 to compensate victims and their families for the trauma suffered as a result of not being able to demonstrate their lawful immigration status.

Some from the Windrush generation – named after the HMT Empire Windrush, the ship that brought some of the first Caribbean migrants to the UK – were wrongly detained, denied their legal rights and threatened with deportation.

Dozens of Windrush victims are believed to have died before their claims were dealt with by the Home Office. The department has made “little progress” in processing claims where people have died – causing their families further distress, the report found.

Only four out of 132 claims made on behalf of the estate of someone who has died had received payment, the Commons’ committee was told.

The cross-party group of MPs said “fundamental problems” in the compensation scheme’s design and implementation were currently “coming home to roost”.

It accused the Home Office of launching the scheme without the caseworkers required to deliver it and continuing to operate without capacity needed to get payments out.

When it launched the scheme in 2019, the Home Office had only had only six caseworkers dealing with claims, compared to the 125 it considered it would need. “It has never caught up and appears to still be significantly understaffed,” the scathing report found.

It also said Home Office planning estimates for the scheme have been completely wrong. It thought that each case would take caseworkers about 30 hours to process. In practice it has taken them, on average, five times as long.

The committee said the Home Office should speed up the processing of payments as a matter of urgency, and remove logistical barriers from estate claims.

It also asked the department to write to the committee within one month setting out its plan to improve the scheme.

Last week Ms Patel announced that the April 2023 end date for the Windrush compensation scheme had been removed. The Home Office said the scheme had offered more than £34m, of which almost £27m has been paid.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The home secretary has been resolute in determination to put right the wrongs suffered by all those affected by the Windrush scandal. Many of the issues raised in this report are already being addressed.

“Last week, we announced further improvements to simplify the application process, new support measures for those claiming on behalf of relatives who have passed away and the removal of the scheme’s end date. All designed to ensure every victim receives the compensation they deserve.”

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