27 July 2021

Home Office failing Windrush generation a second time, warn MPs

27 July 2021

The Home Office “appears to be failing” the Windrush generation a second time through its ill-thought-out compensation scheme, MPs have warned.

They said the remuneration scheme is too complex, too slow to hand out money and understaffed, with only six people at first hired to deal with a predicted 15,000 claims.

The Windrush scandal erupted in 2018 when British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation, despite having the right to live in Britain.

Empire Windrush docked in Southampton in 1954 (PA) (PA Wire)

Many lost homes and jobs and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

Following public outcry, the UK Government put in place a compensation programme designed to reimburse those impacted by the scandal.

But the Public Accounts Committee, after reviewing the Home Office’s progress, criticised the approach to redressing the wrongs done to the Windrush generation.

The cross-party group found that some people had died before their claims were dealt with, while fewer than a quarter of claimants have received a payout.

In its Windrush Compensation Scheme report, published on Tuesday, the committee said: “The Home Office promised to learn lessons from the Windrush scandal, but having failed the Windrush generation once, it appears to be failing them again.”

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

The Empire Windrush carried one of the first large groups of West Indian immigrants from Jamaica to the UK after the Second World War.

They were among tens of thousands of people – known as the Windrush generation – to arrive from 1948 to help rebuild post-war Britain.

The committee’s findings come less than a week after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced she was scrapping the April 2023 deadline to submit compensation claims, instead making it indefinite.

Committee chairwoman and Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier said: “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 were approaching the end of those lifetimes as this tragedy befell them.

“Some have died without ever seeing justice or receiving the compensation they deserve.

Priti Patel has scrapped the original deadline for Windrush compensation claims (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

“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.”

The 17-page report said that when MPs took evidence in June, only 412 of the 2,367 claims submitted had received a final payment despite the process being open for two years.

In an update to the Commons earlier this month, Home Office minister Kit Malthouse put the number of people who had been awarded money at 732, with £24 million paid out from the £32 million on offer.

The PAC report also said people were “still waiting far too long to receive compensation” and that Ms Patel’s department had made “little progress” in processing claims where people had died, resulting in “future distress” for those families.

Only four out of 132 claims made on behalf of the estate of someone who had died had received payment, it added.

The scheme design was “too complex”, failing to take into consideration that many of the original difficulties suffered by the Windrush generation were due to not having the documentation they needed to back up their right to remain in Britain.

“The department designed a scheme which demands evidence it acknowledges many claimants do not have,” the MPs noted.

They said government estimates for how many of those hit by the scandal would apply for compensation had been “completely wrong”, while there were also criticisms of the lack of caseworkers hired.

The Home Office initially estimated it would receive around 15,000 eligible claims, but so far 2,631 have been submitted.

The PAC found that the Home Office was employing just six caseworkers at its launch to deal with processing claims, compared with the 125 it considered it would need.

“It has never caught up and appears to still be significantly understaffed,” the committee concluded.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has been resolute in her 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.

“And since December, when the Home Secretary overhauled the scheme, the amount of compensation paid has risen from less than £3 million to almost £27 million, whilst a further £7.1 million has been offered.”

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