More than two years after the Government promised to compensate the Windrush generation, hundreds of claimants are still waiting for pay outs.
In April 2019, people whose lives had been impacted by not being able to demonstrate their lawful immigration status, and their families, were told they would be compensated to “right the wrongs” for their suffering.
Patrick Vernon, who campaigned for Windrush Day, told the Big Issue: “The Government talk about righting the wrongs but it’s like a political slogan that they use all the time. There’s no depth or meaning or even sincerity about this.
“The scheme’s not working. There’s still so much paperwork, there’s no empathy. You probably get better customer service from the pound shop. Speak to any of the victims, they will tell you it’s almost like they’re being retraumatised again.”
Patrick Vernon led the campaign for the annual day introduced in 2018 and is behind the “Fix the Windrush compensation scheme” petition, which has more than 86,000 supporters. Image: Patrick Vernon
The Windrush generation are people from the Caribbean who came to the UK between 1948 and 1973 to fill the post-war labour shortage. As Commonwealth citizens, they were given the freedom to permanently live and work in the UK.
However, in 2017, a scandal emerged when it was reported that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, including people from the Windrush generation had been denied legal rights and wrongly deported due to the UK’s “hostile environment”.
Anthony Bryan, who had two spells of detention at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, and whose life story was based on the successful BAFTA awarding BBC drama Sitting in Limbo said: “The Home Office took away my liberty, livelihood, sanity, and fellow friends and campaigners the late Sarah O’Connor and Paulette Wilson as result of the hostile environment. They have offered me compensation package which does not reflect what I need to build my life again and to move forward with my family.
“We need urgently an impartial and independent organisation to support all compensation claims and to provide mental health and wellbeing support. The Home Secretary is not righting the wrongs to sort out the Windrush Scandal.”
In December 2020, changes were made to the Home Office’s compensation scheme, after criticism over the difficulty of the application process, the long wait for payment and that the amount paid out was not enough to reflect people’s suffering.
The latest Home Office figures show just 687 claims have been paid out so far. Yet recent analysis from the National Audit Office (NAO) shows more than 2,000 claims are outstanding.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the House of Commons public accounts committee, said: “The Home Office continues to fail the Windrush generation with this bungled compensation scheme…
“This is yet another example of the Home Office moving at a glacial pace, with little regard for the impact of its actions.”
The NAO reported it took the Home Office more than five times longer than planned for claims to be processed and by March 2021 £6.3million of the £15.8 million budget for the scheme had been spent on staffing.
Home Office analysis revealed by the end of March 2021 the scheme had only paid out £14.3 million of the £120 million to £310 million predicted since launch. Home Office figures show more than £6.2 million compensation was paid out in April.
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “The Windrush Compensation Scheme was rolled out before it was ready to receive applications and two years after it was launched, people are still facing long waits to receive their final compensation payment.
“Since December 2020, the Home Office has made some progress, but it needs to sustain its efforts to improve the scheme to ensure it fairly compensates members of the Windrush generation in acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused them”.
The delay on payments is devastating for those who are waiting. Twenty one people have died while waiting for compensation, it emerged in May.
Vernon added: “Windrush Day is now bittersweet, because when I was campaigning for it all those years ago before the scandal broke, it was about celebrating the contribution of not just the Windrush generation but all migrants to Britain. But the scandal is still ongoing so people still have to fight for justice.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are determined to put right the terrible injustices faced by the Windrush generation by successive governments, which is why the Home Secretary overhauled the Compensation in December, and we are now seeing the positive impact of those changes.
“The Scheme has offered more than £26 million, of which more than £14 million has been paid, and in March alone, more than £8 million was paid in compensation – more than doubling the amount paid in the 20 months since the scheme was launched.
“We know there is more to do and will continue to work hard to ensure payments are made faster and the awards offered are greater.”