Campaigners have warned that the Home Office is not fit to run the Windrush compensation scheme, after it emerged that less than a quarter of claimants have received a payout. According to a report published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Home Office ‘appears to be failing the Windrush generation for a second time’.
The ‘Windrush Compensation Scheme’ report published by the PAC claims that the scheme is ‘too complex and too slow’ when it comes to remunerating people. The report also cited staffing issues, stating that just six people had initially been hired to deal with an estimated 15,000 applications.
The Windrush scandal is one of the biggest UK immigration failings in recent history, and the compensation scheme has been the target of criticism from campaigners and MPs, who 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.”
The PAC’s report follows a survey that was rolled out by campaign group, Windrush Lives, and the Good Law Project, which sought feedback from people who are eligible for the compensation scheme to find out about the experiences of people who have already used the beleaguered system.
Ramya Jaidev, of Windrush Lives, told The Independent that the PAC report ‘isn’t news for any of the victims who have been battling through the Windrush Compensation Scheme’.
She said: “The Home Office has directed its efforts at making it appear, to the general public, that it is doing a lot and making changes to deliver a better scheme.”
“The reality is that the changes it has made tinker around the edges and ignore the serious structural problems embedded in the scheme, such as the types of evidence that are demanded, chronic understaffing as exposed by the National Audit Office’s report, and the fundamental issue of believing what victims say,” she added.
Jaidev claimed that many people are ‘stuck endlessly in the process’.
Quality of offers
Meanwhile, Jaidev also raised concerns over the quality of the offers being made to those who have accepted a settlement through the scheme. She said: “Anecdotally, we know that initial offers are generally very poor, and claimants have had to go through multiple reviews, which only lengthens the process and adds to the stress.”
According to Jaidev, many have accepted offers they are not satisfied with because they desperately need the money to pay off debts or they have given up on challenging the system and wanted it all to be over.
She said: “Having to take a poor settlement in such conditions is no justice at all – we are talking about people who have been driven into poverty by the Home Office being forced into taking demeaning offers because they have no choice. That is another trauma to add to the pile.”
“This shows that even when these problems are pinpointed and put to the Home Office quite specifically, there is a wall of resistance. This is part of the reason why we and many others argue that the scheme must be stripped from the Home Office,” Jaidev added.
Not fit for purpose
Legal director at Good Law Project, Gemma Abbott, said: “The Windrush Compensation Scheme is not fit for purpose, and the Home Office seems neither equipped nor willing to bring it up to scratch. It is high time that the scheme was removed from Home Office control and run independently.”
“The survey we have created with Windrush Lives is vital in helping us to understand the experiences of people eligible for the scheme, and to allow us to explore potential legal action against the Home Office,” Ms Abbott added.
The findings of the PAC report come after UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, recently announced that she was scrapping the April 2023 deadline for Windrush victims to submit a compensation claim. Instead, the deadline will be indefinite.
The PAC’s 17-page report states that when MPs received evidence in June, only 412 of 2,367 claims submitted had resulted in a final payment being made – this was despite the scheme already being open for two years.
Legal agreement signed
In April, Workpermit.com reported on the Home Office signing a legal document pledging not to repeat the errors that led to the Windrush scandal. The agreement commits the government agency to rectifying failures and complying with equality laws while implementing its controversial ‘hostile environment’ policy.
The agreement, signed with the equalities watchdog, will run for two years and requires the Home Office to improve its policies and procedures to ensure that it learns lessons from failures within the department that led to the Windrush scandal.
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