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“Complete overhaul” of the Windrush Compensation Scheme urgently needed

A lawyer who represents hundreds of victims of the Windrush scandal has welcomed a report by the Home Affairs Committee which recommends that the Windrush Compensation Scheme is taken out of the Home Office and transferred to an independent organisation.

Posted on 24 November 2021

Leigh Day partner Jacqueline McKenzie, who has been working to secure the rights of those affected by the Windrush scandal since before it hit the headlines in 2018, said the report vindicates what her clients have been saying for years – that the scheme is not working and is causing further distress to those who have already had their lives ripped apart.

Jacqueline, who provided written and oral evidence to the committee, said:
 
“This report is the latest in a series which highlights the failings of the Windrush Compensation Scheme.  We've had reports from the Home Affairs Committee, the National Audit Office, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and most recently, from Justice.  All of these use an evidence base to show, incontrovertibly, that the scheme is not working. 
 
“The most recent Home Affairs Committee report goes further to recommend that the scheme be moved from the Home Office. For a long time, I was worried that this would impinge on claimants by causing further delays; they have already endured a long wait for the scheme to be set up and the administration of it has been exceedingly slow, but a complete overhaul and a new management organisation is probably the only way that victims of the Windrush scandal are likely to get redress in a timely manner. I'm pleased that the report vindicates what the claimants have been saying about the shameful and shambolic way this has been handled by the Home Office, but nothing will change unless the structural and cultural changes that Wendy Williams sought take place. For now there is no evidence of any of this happening.”
 
Written evidence provided to the committee by Leigh Day, on behalf of its clients, detailed that some people have taken lower offers of compensation because they no longer wish to engage with the scheme or have asked the scheme to assess them based on evidence they have previously submitted because repeated requests for further information have caused further distress (para 100). The submissions further detailed the fear felt by some people in contacting the Home Office at all as they were worried they may be deported (para 223).
 
The Home Affairs Committee report published today is highly critical of the Home Office’s management of the scheme and concludes that it has repeated the same bureaucratic insensitivities that led to the Windrush scandal. It states:
 
“No amount of compensation could ever repay the fear, the humiliation and the hurt that was caused both to individuals and to communities affected. This was a grave betrayal; lessons must be learnt by all.”
 
The report found that most people who have applied have yet to receive any compensation at all. For some the experience of applying for compensation has become a “source of further trauma rather than redress” and others have been put off from applying for the scheme altogether. The committee say they are deeply concerned that as of the end of September 2021, only 20.1% of the initially estimated 15,000 eligible claimants have applied to the scheme and only 5.8% have received any compensation. Twenty-three people have died without receiving compensation.
 
The report calls for a £10,000 ‘impact on life’ award to be provided within two months to all those the Home Office has previously acknowledged were wrongly subjected to immigration enforcement measures or were wrongly denied proof of their lawful status as a result of the Windrush scandal. The payment must be made regardless of whether the people involved can show proof of harm.

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