Renewed call on ‘unwieldy’ Windrush compensation scheme as latest figures out

Almost 150 Windrush compensation claims have been in the system for at least a year, while dozens have been there for more than 18 months, according to the latest figures.

A fresh call for justice for victims of what campaigners have dubbed the Home Office scandal has been made ahead of Windrush Day this weekend.

Political parties are being urged to commit to redesigning what the Action for Race Equality (ARE) charity branded “unwieldy and complex” schemes dealing with citizenship documentation and compensation.

Campaigners renewed calls for the compensation scheme to be removed from the Home Office “into a more neutral government department”, and demanded fair payouts to reflect the “true scale” of harm caused to victims.

The calls come as the latest figures, published on Friday, showed that nearly £90.6 million had been paid out for 2,519 claims as of the end of May – an average of around £35,960 per claim.

A total of 8,477 claims had been made by the end of May.

Of these, 928 were still in the system, 59 had been suspended and 7,490 had been given a final decision.

Among the 928 being processed were 147 that had been in the system for at least 12 months, or 16% of the total caseload still in progress.

This proportion has been on an upwards trend in recent months, having dipped as low as 12% in October 2023 while previously peaking at 38% in June 2022.

Some 51 claims had been in the system for more than 18 months, down from 154 a year earlier.

There are 5,902 claims that have now been fully closed, more than half of which (55%) were found to have no entitlement to compensation, 34% were offered compensation and 11% had their eligibility for a claim refused or withdrawn.

Windrush Day on Saturday marks 76 years since the HMT Empire Windrush arrived in England, bringing people from the Caribbean who answered Britain’s call to help fill post-war labour shortages.

The Windrush scandal – which campaigners have since said should be known as the Home Office scandal – erupted in 2018 when British citizens 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.

When the scandal was uncovered, the Conservative Government promised to right the wrongs of what had happened but the compensation scheme has been repeatedly criticised for the speed at which claims are being processed and payments made.

ARE has set out a series of asks for the next government’s first 100 days, including setting up a statutory inquiry into the scandal, citizenship for all Windrush families, and implementing all recommendations from a 2020 Lessons Learned review into what had happened.

On Wednesday a High Court ruling found that a Government decision to drop some of the 30 recommendations was unlawful.

While all were originally accepted by then-home secretary Priti Patel, in January 2023 it was confirmed that Suella Braverman, who was in post as home secretary by that stage, had dropped three.

In her judgment, Mrs Justice Heather Williams ruled that dropping two of the recommendations – related to a commitment to establish a migrants’ commissioner and to increase the powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI) – had a “disproportionately prejudicial effect upon Windrush victims” and indirectly discriminated against them.

The judge also said it was unlawful and “conspicuously unfair” for the ICIBI recommendation to be shelved without consulting Windrush community representatives and review author Wendy Williams.

Solicitor Ms Williams said she was “delighted” with the ruling and added that she hoped the Home Office “will now ensure that all my recommendations are implemented without further delay, so that those affected by the Windrush scandal can fully receive the justice they deserve”.

Patrick Vernon, ARE Windrush justice programme adviser, said: “Despite some modest changes, there are still fundamental issues which are outstanding.

“These have caused further re-traumatisation in affected communities and created a lack of faith in government’s ability to right the wrongs of the scandal.

“The Windrush Generation contributed so much to Britain but the Home Office scandal shows they are still treated as second-class citizens.”

Labour has pledged in its manifesto to “ensure the victims of the appalling Windrush scandal have their voices heard and the compensation scheme is run effectively, with a new Windrush Commissioner”.

A brief mention in the Conservative manifesto said the party would “continue delivering the Windrush Compensation Scheme” if returned to government.

Age UK said older people caught up in the sandal “have given their working lives to our country” and deserve justice.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said “with political will” the compensation scheme could be made “much fairer and easier to access”.

She added: “The next government needs to act quickly before it’s too late and more people go to their graves uncompensated for the huge damage they and their families have experienced through the years.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal and making sure those affected receive the compensation they deserve.

“We continue to support individuals to access and apply for our Status Scheme so they can get the documentation needed to prove their right to be in the United Kingdom.”