(BBC)–At least nine people have died before receiving money applied for through the Windrush compensation scheme, according to Home Office figures.
The Windrush scandal saw deportation threats made to the children of Commonwealth citizens.
Despite living and working in the UK for decades, many were told they were there illegally because of a lack of official paperwork.
People arriving in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries have been labelled the Windrush generation.
It refers to the ship MV Empire Windrush, which docked in Tilbury on 22 June 1948, as the first ship bringing workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands, to help fill post-war UK labor shortages.
The ship carried 492 passengers – many of them children.
The Home Office kept no record of those granted leave to remain and issued no paperwork – making it is difficult for Windrush arrivals to prove their legal status.
In 2010, it destroyed landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants.
Because they came from British colonies that were not independent, they believed they were British citizens.
The government apologized in 2018 and the compensation scheme was launched.
It was intended to help those who did not have the right documentation to prove their status in the UK.
It’s also meant to compensate victims for things such as loss of earnings and periods of detainment.
But the Home Office figures, released to the BBC under Freedom of Information laws, show that in addition to people dying before they receive any money, fewer than five people have been offered the top level of “Impact on Life” payment.
These payments reflect how badly a claimant’s life was affected and range from Level 1 – essentially a minor inconvenience worth £250, to Level 6 – a profound and likely irreversible impact worth £10,000 or more. More than 1,500 claims have been made using the scheme, with 250 being offered an “Impact on Life” payment.
Glenda Caesar, 58, came to Britain legally as a three-month-old child in 1961 from Dominica, and has lived in the UK ever since. She was sacked from her job as an administrator in a doctor’s office in 2009 and was subsequently denied unemployment benefits.
Glenda, who lives in Hackney, east London, was unable to work for almost 10 years and in this time could not claim welfare. After being detained for several hours at Gatwick airport following a family holiday, she was told if she left the UK again she would likely not be allowed to return.
Last year she rejected a compensation offer of £22,000 and has since rejected a further offer.
“I was shocked,” she says, “to get a letter saying we’re offering you £13,000 for loss of employment, we’re offering you £7,000 for Impact on Life and we’re offering you £1,500 for detainment.
“I was like, there’s something wrong somewhere, I have to go public with this, this isn’t fair.”
Glenda, who contemplated taking her own life during the period in which she could not work, says her anxiety levels have been affected by the compensation process.
“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.
“‘It’s in process.’ ‘Okay what’s the process?’ ‘I can’t say anything.’ ‘But it’s about me, why can’t you tell me? Can you get the caseworker to call me?’ ‘I don’t know if we’ll be able to do that.’ No one wants to answer directly.”
Holly Stow, a senior caseworker at the North Kensington Law Centre, which represents almost 50 Windrush claimants, including Glenda, says no one she represents has ever received an “Impact on Life” offer in the top level.
“We’ve seen various claimants where they have been detained, threats of deportation, they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost their house, they’ve been homeless.
“We’ve submitted evidence where people have gone to their GP and mention they’re feeling suicidal, considering self-harm and even that type of evidence is not enough for a Level 6.
“So it makes you wonder, what do these people have to go through to be able to show that their life has seriously been affected by this?”
She says the Home Office has asked some of the people she represents for evidence that no longer exists.
A Home Office statement said, “We are determined to right the wrongs of the Windrush generation, and the Windrush compensation scheme has paid out or offered more than £2.8m, with more offers being made every single week.
“We continue to work with families to ensure compensation is still paid out where claimants have sadly passed away.
“While we aim to process claims as quickly as possible, it is important we get this right, and that we carefully consider each person’s circumstances and experiences, treating everyone with the care and sensitivity they deserve.
“This will mean that the maximum payment can be made to every single person.”