Windrush victims facing long waits for compensation – report

Jamaican immigrants Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Victims of the Windrush scandal are still facing long waits to receive compensation, a report has found.

Whitehall’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), concluded the Windrush Compensation Scheme is yet to meet its objective of compensating claimants quickly.

It said: “The number of people who have received payments has increased since December 2020, but operational challenges remain.”

When the scheme was launched in April 2019 it estimated it could pay out between £120 million and £310 million to 15,000 people, based on information from its immigration systems and the 2011 census, because the department did not know how many people might be eligible for compensation.

The NAO said: “Having revised its estimates in October 2019, the Home Office subsequently expected to pay compensation worth between £60 million and £260 million to 11,500 people.”

Thousands of people brought to the UK have been threatened with deportation. Credit: PA

It takes an average of 154 staff hours to process a case through to payment approval, considerably longer than the 30 hours the Home Office estimated when the scheme was launched, according to the findings.

The report added: “By March 2021, the Home Office had spent £8.1 million of its £15.8 million budget running the scheme, with £6.3 million of this spent on staff.”

Analysis also found half of cases were “returned to caseworkers for further work” but “some claims have proceeded to payment without errors being identified”.

By March this year the department was aware of six overpayments, totalling £38,292. The NAO identified further errors and inconsistencies in how caseworkers calculated compensation, according to the findings.

Gareth Davies, 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.”

Yvette Cooper has called for the home secretary to resign. Credit: PA

Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said it was “completely unacceptable that the vast majority of those affected still haven’t received a penny in compensation”.

Last week the Home Office said it has paid £14.3 million in compensation to 633 people and offered a further £12 million.

The amount paid in March (£8 million) more than doubled the figure paid in the 20 months since the scheme launched, the department said.

Some 2,193 claims were submitted by the end of March, according to official data.

The figures also show 122 claims were for people who had already died, but only three had resulted in payments so far.

Appeals have been made against decisions in more than 200 cases, while 202 eligible applicants were told they were not entitled to any money because their claims did not demonstrate they had been adversely affected by the scandal.

There have been 119 claims rejected on eligibility grounds.

Victims were promised bigger, quicker payouts following complaints of difficulties in claiming compensation.

Minimum payments have risen from £250 to £10,000 while the maximum has increased from £10,000 to £100,000.

Higher awards will be available for those in exceptional circumstances and the changes will apply retrospectively.

The scandal erupted in 2018 when British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation, despite having the right to live in Britain.

Many lost homes and jobs and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the department is “determined to put right the terrible injustices faced by the Windrush generation by successive governments” and is in the process of hiring more caseworkers, adding: “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.”