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 and too slow to hand out money. They also described it as being 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. 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 27 July, 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.
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.
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 £24m paid out from the £32m on offer.
The PAC report also said people were “still waiting far too long to receive compensation” and that 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 MPs notes:
The department designed a scheme which demands evidence it acknowledges many claimants do not have
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. The committee concluded:
It has never caught up and appears to still be significantly understaffed
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