Home Office To Revamp The Windrush Compensation Scheme

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The Home Office has responded to criticism of the Windrush Compensation scheme with an announcement from Home Secretary Priti Patel promising to implement significant changes to the scheme.

The new changes have pledged to increase the minimum compensation from £250 to £10,000 - a forty fold increase on the current figure. Additionally, individuals applying for the scheme will receive quicker responses to claims under new preliminary payments.

The maximum available payment has also increased across all levels within the Impact of Life category, rising from £10,000 to £100,000 and potentially more in 'exceptional circumstances'.

Attempt at rebuilding trust

The revamped scheme forms part of efforts to 'rebuild trust' after years of injustices. The Home Secretary said she hoped the changes would offer a means of 'moving forward together'. This comes less than a month after the EHRC probe into Home Office policy criticised the hostile environment policy agenda against the members of the Windrush Generation concluding that they broke equalities law.

On the whole, campaigners have received the news as a step in the right direction. While the 40 fold increase to £10,000 has naturally drawn headlines, the use of preliminary payments has the potential to address one of the biggest failures of the scheme which is the administration of compensation. The deaths of up to nine victims who had passed away before receiving compensation emphasised the onerous nature of the process.

The report of their passing including the high profile case of Paulette Wilson was difficult to disassociate from a long history of contempt and neglect which has featured the denial of legal rights in work, healthcare and resulted in deportations.

The case of Glenda Caesar

The failures of the compensation scheme were most recently highlighted in the case of Glenda Caesar. She was not only stopped from working and denied welfare but then subsequently let down by a compensation scheme which proved ‘stressful, long and tiring’. Glenda, as with many others, would face obstacles when attempting to navigate the process.

Glenda Caesar is one of many from the Windrush generation that were unfairly denied the right to work.

"It's stressful, it's long, it's tiring and the whole process of doing the compensation form is something you cannot do by yourself, you definitely need legal help. You call them up and you're not getting directly through to the person who's supposed to be allocated to your case and that alone just raises your stress level, because you're getting more angry because you're not getting a result."

The announcement highlights that the continued work of campaigners is having an effect. The preliminary payments move some way to addressing the ease at which payment is administered but time will tell whether this results in more reliable access to compensation. 

More work to be done

Despite the increase in payments under the 'impact of life' tariff, claimants have largely struggled to get to the top of the threshold or above it in exceptional cases. The Home Office reported on the 14 December 2020 that of the 1,641 claims that had been made under the scheme, only 226 people have actually received a payment and only 6 persons have had an award for impact on life above the previous £10,000 threshold.

Campaigners may also look to ensure that the use of new preliminary payments is based on secure grounds. This is to mitigate against the possibility of compensation which is given out at the beginning of application process being reduced once this process has concluded.

The lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie who represents over 200 victims of the Windrush scandal gave her view on the update. She highlighted a number of areas which needed to be addressed moving forward including application eligibility, the speed at which full claims are processed, and concerns over the lack of professional support on offer. Speaking to Operation Black Vote she said the following:

“The recent changes to the Windrush Compensation Scheme announced on the 14 December, following requests made by those affected by the scheme, lawyers and campaigners, is very much welcomed.

I gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee on the 9 December stating that most of the claimants could only qualify under the impact on life heading and that the tariffs were too low with there being no guidance or support for taking the claim above the £10,000 threshold. The fact that the minimum threshold has been increased from £250 to £10,000 is an excellent start. It's also excellent news that the Home Office has taken on board our demands for interim payments given the delays in processing claims.

I remain concerned however about the speed in which full claims will be processed, the onerous evidential requirements, the methods for assessing employment and pension losses, the numbers of people who aren't even eligible to apply because of unresolved issues relating to their immigration status and the lack of resources to provide professional assistance to enable people to make viable claims. It's a good start but our work continues to hold the government to account. The suffering is immeasurable.”

Many will be uncomfortable applauding efforts to remedy failures of the past wherein several cases these failures have resulted in lives being ruined. The new plans have been received as a step in the right direction by members of the Windrush Generation and this is truly the only thing that matters. Sadly, for the victims who are no longer with us today, this will prove too little too late.

Mayowa Ayodele

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