The Windrush Compensation Scheme opened in April 2019 following an outcry over the treatment of British citizens from the Caribbean who faced deportation and the loss of access to public services after being wrongly swept up in an immigration crackdown.
In order for a payment to be made under the scheme, an applicant must first accept the offer made. If an applicant is unhappy with the offer made he/she can request a free internal review. If an applicant still does not agree with the outcome, the applicant can request a further review from the Independent Adjudicator.
The Home Secretary extended the Windrush Compensation Scheme to 2 April 2023 to give more people time to claim.
Figures recently released from the Home Office confirm that £360,000 has been paid out in the first year to 60 applicants.
The Home Office has also confirmed that during the same period they have made offers of approximately £280,000 in compensation through the scheme which have yet to be accepted.
The payments made under the scheme vary, depending on the facts of the case, with one payment in excess of £100,000. The Home Office are keen to stress that each application is personal, with careful consideration given to the specific circumstances in every application.
Many of the payments made to date are interim payments, which means applicants may receive further payments at a later date.
The Home Office say that the scheme is making good progress but they are conscious that they have not seen the expected number of applicants come forward and apply and in order to make the scheme better known to prospective applicants the Commonwealth Citizens’ Taskforce and the Windrush Compensation Scheme are running a series of online engagement events to raise awareness.
In addition to these measures the Home Office will shortly launch a separate £500,000 fund for grassroots organisations to promote the Windrush Schemes and provide advice services. The department will work with stakeholders to co-design the fund.
However, while the Home Office has reported that the scheme is working well and responding to the needs of applicants, this view does not have universal support.
In March of this year MPs and campaigners urged the Home Secretary to transfer the scheme to an outside independent organisation as it was felt that the Home Office lacks the “experience and empathy to support traumatised people”.
These calls come on the back of the recent highly-critical report by Wendy Williams which found that the Home Office had for decades shown “ignorance and thoughtlessness” on the issue of race and as a result there is a fear that victims of the scandal will be reluctant to apply to a scheme if it continues to be administered by the Home Office.
Labour MP David Lammy said that “An independent body should be set up to administer the compensation scheme, so that black Britons can be confident they will be treated fairly.”
While the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “It is clear that the same Home Office that allowed this appalling scandal to arise in the first place cannot be trusted to administer the compensation scheme.”
The experience of other successful international and national compensation and/or redress schemes to date is that they should be standalone independent organisations.
They should where possible have their own dedicated staff, who have direct experience of dealing with people who have been traumatised, as many applicants will need encouragement and support in order to proceed with a claim for compensation and/or an application for redress in respect of a wrong done to them.
This being the case, one can fully understand why victims of the Windrush scandal may not have absolute confidence in a compensation scheme being run by the Home Office.
The Windrush scheme was cited by witnesses to IICSA’s Accountability & Reparations investigation as an example of how redress schemes could be quickly introduced and be straightforward to run. The initial progress of the scheme, as noted above, highlights that any redress scheme is likely to bring with it challenges and take time to implement.
Sharon Moohan, Partner, BLM