The Empire Windrush ship brought one of the first large groups of Caribbean people to the UK

By Mark Easton
BBC Home editor

 

The scheme meant to compensate members of the Windrush generation wrongly classed as illegal immigrants has compounded the injustice, MPs say.

Four years after the scandal first emerged, the vast majority of people who applied for compensation have yet to receive a penny, a report by the Home Affairs Committee concluded.

The inquiry found “a litany of flaws” in the scheme’s design and operation.

“We continue to make improvements,” the Home Office responded in a statement.

The Home Office’s Windrush Compensation Scheme was launched in 2018 to “right the wrongs” of a scandal that had seen many thousands of British residents denied healthcare, housing or the right to work.

And some of those ended up being held detained or deported by immigration officials because the government wrongly classed them as illegal immigrants.

However, the experience of applying for compensation has now itself become a further trauma, the report found.

There are excessive burdens on claimants, inadequate staffing and long delays – and many of those affected “are still too fearful of the Home Office to apply,” the committee – a cross party group of MPs which examines government policy in areas including immigration and security – said in its report.

Four years on from the Windrush scandal, the committee concluded, vital lessons have still not been learned.

The scheme contains many of the same bureaucratic insensitivities that led to the Windrush scandal in the first place, the report said.

The Home Office took too long to engage at grassroots level to build trust in the scheme, it added.

Such delays mean that by September 2021, only one in five of an estimated 15,000 eligible claimants had applied to the scheme and only a quarter of these had received compensation.

The MPs highlighted the fact that 23 individuals died before receiving any compensation.

The politicians welcomed changes made to the scheme in December 2020 to speed up payments – but said these “were long overdue” and did not go far enough.

“It is truly shocking how few people have received any compensation for the hardship they endured at the hands of the Home Office,” said Yvette Cooper, who is chairwoman of the committee.

Campaigners outside Downing Street
Campaigners took their case to Downing Street

“Urgent action is needed to get compensation to those who have been so badly wronged.

“It is staggering, given the failures of the Windrush scandal, that the Home Office has allowed some of the same problems to affect the Windrush Compensation Scheme too,” she added.

The report urges the Home Office to:

  • encourage more of the Windrush generation to apply for compensation
  • ensure everyone affected is granted some compensation quickly
  • increase the amount paid
  • guarantee legal assistance for all claimants
  • give greater support to grassroots campaigns

Responding to the report, a Home Office official said: “The home secretary and the department remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that members of the Windrush generation receive every penny of compensation that they are entitled to.

“We continue to make improvements, such as simplifying the application process, hiring more caseworkers and removing the end date.”