Home Office urged to publish Windrush Compensation Scheme expedition process
The Home Office is being asked to openly explain its expedition process for claims under the Windrush Compensation Scheme in a new legal challenge launched by two people affected by the scandal.
Posted on 21 September 2021
Fitzroy Maynard and Henry Vaughan have issued judicial review proceedings against the Home Office to challenge the absence of any clear policy or guidance by the government about the system for expediting urgent applications to the Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS).
The legal case arose in the context of the wide-spread delays experienced by applicants to the Windrush Compensation Scheme. It is reported that the average waiting time for an applicant to receive a final determination of their claim is 434 days, despite many applicants being in desperate need of their financial compensation.
Although there is no published policy, it has become clear through the legal team’s investigation that the Home Office operate a general policy of expediting certain applications when the caseworker deems appropriate.
This fact came as some surprise as there is no public, or seemingly internal, information about this system of prioritisation, and in fact many of the clients that Leigh Day represents appear to have been overlooked for expedition despite their genuinely urgent circumstances. It has been widely reported that a number of applicants have died before their cases were dealt with.
As a result of the information received about expedition a pre-action protocol letter was sent to the Home Office on behalf of Mr Maynard and Mr Vaughan to urge the government to publish criteria for expedition and details of how to apply for expedition.
Since the letter was sent, the government has said that Mr Maynard and Mr Vaughan’s claims will be expedited. However, no clear reasons were given for this, and the Home Office did not commit to publishing the expedition details. As a result, they have issued a judicial review claim. They feel strongly that the system of prioritisation needs to be out in the open so that those in desperate need, such as the elderly and disabled, can apply for expedition.
The campaign group Windrush Lives have supported the application for judicial review.
Mr Maynard said: “It felt like a lifeline when the Windrush Compensation Scheme was finally announced, after years of not being able to build a life, despite living and working here for decades, paying my taxes and contributing to society. However, the scheme has been littered with delays which compound the harm that the government is doing to those in the Windrush generation. I am desperate to be able to move into safer, cleaner and more suitable accommodation for the sake of my young daughter and if the government are fast-tracking some of the compensation scheme claims it is only right that they let people know how and why they can have their claims looked at quicker.”
Mr Vaughan said: “I feel like my life has been made infinitely harder because of my inability to prove my right to work and study in the UK and I was pleased when this was finally recognised by the government with the Windrush Compensation Scheme being put in place. However, it has taken months and months of being asked the same questions that I have been asked all my life just to try and get the compensation I am owed. And during this time I am still living my life constantly terrified about being deported as the anxiety which has surrounded me for all these years does not simply disappear now I have my indefinite leave to remain. I am still in the same terrible situation where I have just enough money to get by, living in dirty and unsafe accommodation. If there is a way that those in urgent need can get their claims assessed faster, it is the government’s responsibility to make everyone aware of that.”
John Crowley, solicitor from Leigh Day, said: “Our clients argue that without knowing that expedition is an option it is impossible to make an effective application. Applicants to the WCS have suffered constant delays and in our experience, unless there is a clear policy on when an application should be expedited, caseworkers tend to put new applications to the bottom of the pile, even for those in the most urgent need like our clients bringing this challenge. ”
Fitzroy Maynard, 55, of Hornsey in London, was born in St. John’s, Antigua, in 1966 and came to the UK to live with his parents when he was 14 years old. He travelled on his Citizens of UK and Colonies passport, which contained a stamp for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Unfortunately, he lost that passport in the mid-80 but nonetheless, he was able to attend college, rent accommodation, work and obtain benefits without an issue for many years.
This all changed in 2007 when he was unlawfully dismissed from his job as a live-in residential caretaker. Finding himself without work or accommodation he applied for income support and social housing but was told he would need to prove his entitlement, and the documents he had were insufficient to do this. He had a similar response to the many job applications he made at the time. He wrote to the Home Office at the time to ask for help, but they said there was no record of him arriving in the UK. As a result of being unable to get a job or apply for financial support Fitzroy was homeless for 10 years, until his daughter was born in 2014. At this time, he re-established contact with his sister to ask for her help.
When the Windrush scandal hit the media in 2018 Fitzroy attended a meeting with the Home Office and two weeks later received a Biometric Residence Permit which confirmed he had Indefinite Leave to Remain. He subsequently submitted a claim for compensation in November 2020. He has been living in a bedsit with his young daughter since being granted Indefinite Leave to Remain but is keen to access the compensation he is entitled to so he can move into more suitable accommodation. He describes his current bedsit as in a dirty and poorly maintained building which is infested with rats and is occupied by mainly single men. There is no room for his daughter to play and they have to share one bed. They got rid of their sofa because it became infested with bed bugs.
Henry Vaughan, aged 67, of Northwest London, was born in St Anns, Jamaica, in 1954. His parents emigrated to the UK when he was a baby and he travelled to join them in 1961. His inability to find or maintain employment has been a consistent issue through the years because he is unable to provide proof of his right to study or work in the UK. He was accepted onto a culinary traineeship in 1969 but was not allowed to complete the course because he was not able to provide proof of his right to study in the UK.
Since then, other than for the periods he was self-employed, he has either been dismissed from employment or turned down at the application stage because of his lack of ID documents. Since the 80s he has lived in fear of being deported after seeing friends being sent back to the Caribbean who had lived in the country since they were children. This has had a very serious effect on his mental health. In November 2019 he was finally issued with a Biometric Residence Permit which confirmed he had Indefinite Leave to Remain. Despite this he remains stuck in his current circumstances whereby he does not have enough money for anything more than food and basic household goods. Both the communal front door to his building, and the door to his bedsit, are broken and he has to put a heavy chair in front of his bedsit door every night to provide some sense of safety. Henry suffers from crippling anxiety which makes it very difficult for him to leave his accommodation and he leads a largely solitary life due to his ongoing fear of being deported.