The architect of the Windrush compensation scheme has slammed the Home Office over its handling of pay-outs. Martin Forde is the latest to blast the Home Office for its handling of the scheme following comments made by Wendy Williams – author of a report into the Windrush scandal – who expressed her dismay at how slow pay-outs were progressing.
Workpermit.com recently reported that since the launch of the Windrush compensation scheme, only 12% of people have received a payout. During a recent Commons hearing into problems with the programme, Mr Forde described how the Home Office ignored key aspects of his advice regarding implementation of the scheme.
Forde, a barrister, added that some pay-outs should be ‘more generous.’
Light touch approach
Mr Forde claims that he urged the Home Office to take a ‘light touch approach’ in terms of the amount of documentary evidence that claimants would need to provide to prove the validity of their claim. However, the Home Office seemingly ignored this advice, according to Forde.
Amid widespread payout delays, Mr Forde defended the compensation scheme, arguing that mismanaged expectations and misunderstandings over how long claims took to process, had contributed to hold-ups in payments being issued.
According to the most recent data, by the end of November, just £2.2m had been awarded to 226 claimants, despite the compensation pot being expected to payout more than £200 million to as many as 15,000 people.
Unreasonable amounts of evidence
Legal advisers told the Home Affairs Select Committee that people affected by the Windrush scandal were being asked to provide ‘unreasonable amounts of documentary evidence’ in an effort to convince Home Office officials to payout.
Many have found it immensely difficult to prove that the scandal had a negative impact on their lives based on the criteria outlined by the Home Office. Forde admitted that it was hard for people who tended to downplay the hardship they had suffered to gather the necessary evidence to prove that the Home Office had disrupted their lives.
He said: “I’m not surprised that people are disappointed by how much they’ve been awarded for that.”
Meanwhile, the advice that Forde said he gave about compensation payments being made regardless of whether a person had a criminal record had also been ignored by the Home Office. He further criticised the government agency for failing to understand the fear among those affected by the scandal still faced.
In recent weeks, the Home Office has been embroiled in further controversy amid a series of deportation flights, which Mr Forde claims are ‘undermining the Windrush compensation scheme.
Forde said: “There are lots of people who are genuinely scared. Every time there is one of these flights, it causes a problem in terms of people’s confidence in the Home Office.”
Mr Forde had called for Legal Aid to be made available to compensation applicants, but he was told that this wasn’t feasible without parliamentary approval. The barrister said he was ‘persuaded’ that it was more important to devise a scheme that he could ‘get up and running quickly.’
Many of the delays faced by claimants can be attributed to their lack of legal advice, which makes it difficult for many to complete the compensation forms in a way that the Home Office would approve.
Amid his criticism of the Home Office, Forde did pay tribute to the scheme’s former policy adviser, Alexandra Ankrah. Ms Ankrah resigned from the scheme earlier this year after saying that she’d ‘lost faith in the programme’s ability to deliver justice to those affected.’ Forde described Ms Ankrah as an ‘excellent member of staff.’
In a final swipe at the Home Office, the Windrush compensation scheme’s architect said: “People felt quite strongly that the Home Office should not be marking its own homework by administering the scheme.”
Despite this Forde pointed out that moving the scheme to another department would be fraught with difficulties.
He said: “The civil servants are doing a difficult job well, but the institution is tainted.”
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