The Home Secretary is to announce radical reforms to the Windrush compensation scheme, with the aim of making payments more generous and swifter. This is in response to mounting criticism from the scandal’s victims at protracted delays and low offers.
Priti Patel is to announce that anyone who has already received an offer of payment under the scheme will have their cases reviewed, with a basic minimum award of £10,000 set to be offered to everyone who can show that the scandal had an impact on their life.
This £10,000 award will be fast-tracked, and paid out as soon as claimants have demonstrated that they have suffered as a result of the Windrush scandal, which saw thousands of people who had lived legally in the UK for decades being miscategorised as immigration offenders. Some were detained and deported to countries they had left as children up to half a century earlier, but many more also lost homes and jobs or were denied access to pensions, benefits and the NHS.
The cap on the “impact on life” category of the award has been lifted from £10,000 to £100,000 ensuring overall payments made to claimants badly affected by the scandal become substantially more generous.
“The Windrush generation built their lives and their homes in Britain and I have always said that I will listen and act to ensure they get the compensation they deserve” said Priti Patel. “I truly hope the changes I am announcing will make a real difference to people’s lives and I urge everyone who thinks they may have been affected to come forward and apply”.
“While nothing can undo the suffering they endured I hope that the additional money and support which is now available will go some way to rebuild trust so that we can move forward together”.
This announcement has come several weeks after rising anger from those affected about the low offers of compensation that were being made after long delays. At least nine people have died in the period between making an application for compensation and receiving an offer. Alexandra Ankrah, head of policy for the scheme resigned from her job because she felt the programme was “not fit for purpose” and she was concerned by the attitudes of some Home Office colleagues towards claimants, which she felt displayed a “complete lack of humanity”.
Claimants say they are still struggling financially as they wait to be reimbursed by the scheme for lost earnings. Their concerns have been echoed by lawyers who are assisting people with their claims. A senior case worker at North Kensington Law Centre, Holly Stow, is helping with almost 50 compensation cases and said: “many of the offers made have been ‘abysmal’ and at least five people have been waiting for 18 months.
A Home Office source said the department had listened to the concerns, and that the changes to the system were a response to some of the challenges claimants have experienced with the process so far, representing a recognition that it was crucial the government needed to go “further and faster to help those who need it”.
Martin Forde QC, architect of the scheme, criticised the Home Office during a home affairs committee hearing into Windrush compensation payments, said he was “delighted at the development”. “I hope this will increase the rate of payment”.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow home secretary, sent a letter to Patel outlining his ongoing concerns with the scheme, pointing out that although 6,300 people have now been given citizenship via the Windrush scheme, only 226 people had so far received compensation totalling £2.1m, representing only 3.5% of those affected by the scandal. He asked whether legal aid would now be available to claimants to help them submit a claim, adding that the outline reforms did not go “anywhere near far enough to deal with the far wider problems in the scheme”.