Windrush Compensation Scheme Latest Update 2020
It has now been around three years since details of, what we now refer to as the Windrush Scandal, emerged into the public sphere. Given the extent of the injustice which was revealed, it would be expected that by now, most of those affected would have received compensation. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. In this article, we will review the latest on the Windrush Compensation Scheme, including how much has been paid out, and whether enough progress is being made to right the wrongs of the British Home Office.
What is the Windrush Scandal?
‘Windrush’ refers to the vessel, the HMT Empire Windrush, which ferried one of the first groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948. As a result, the tens of thousands of immigrants from different Commonwealth nations who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1973 are called ‘the Windrush generation’. Commonwealth citizens coming to the UK were classed as British subjects, and hence not under immigration control.
Around 2012, the UK government started to ratchet up its ‘hostile environment’ policies, requiring those in positions of responsibility such as banks, landlords, and employers to enforce immigration controls. The problem was that many who had come to the UK from the Caribbean did not have the necessary paperwork to prove their legal status. This is because children entered the UK on their parents’ passports, and hence did not have their own. In addition, the Home Office destroyed thousands of landing cards and other evidence of legal residence. As a result, 12,000 Windrush immigrants were classified as illegal, meaning they lost access to public services including healthcare, banking, and in the worst cases, they were deported. These cases of gross injustice started to be made public in 2017.
What has Happened Since the Windrush Scandal Came to Light?
In May 2018, then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid announced the intention of the Home Office to initiate a ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’. The Windrush Compensation Scheme was then launched in April 2019 with the aim of ensuring that affected members of the Windrush generation receive payments for the impact on their lives. This was supposed to include payments for loss of employment, benefits and other forms of hardship.
In March 2020, the Windrush Lessons Learned Review was published.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of immigrants (JCMI) makes the following points on progress so far:
- There is still a large backlog of cases – according to the Guardian, as of April 2020, there were “3,720 outstanding cases with the Windrush taskforce, the body set up to consider applications from people who believe they were wrongly categorised as immigration offenders”.
- The Home Office’s rules and policies which caused the Windrush Scandal are still in place; “The 'Hostile Environment' - which bars those without the right papers from the safety net we all rely on - hasn't even been suspended for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak, in spite of repeated calls for it, from those affected by the rules”.
- “The review makes absolutely clear that the Windrush scandal was not an accident, but the inevitable result of policies designed to make life impossible for those without the right papers”.
Windrush Compensation Scheme Far Too Slow to Respond
The scheme has now received 1,531 claims and paid out 168 claims , amounting to around £1.3m. Given that the Home Office expect to pay between £200m and £500m, the pace of progress is extremely slow, and this is having a devastating impact on those affected.
The Guardian highlights the case of Anthony Williams who arrived in Birmingham from Jamaica at the age of seven in 1971. Mr Williams, who served in the Royal Artillery for 13 years was classified as an illegal immigrant in 2013 and sacked from his job at the time. As a result, he found himself destitute for five years with no access to social welfare assistance or healthcare. At the time the article in the Guardian was written in June 2020, he had received no compensation; “I gave the youngest part of my life to the Queen and country, and I’ve been treated like a piece of crap by the government and the Ministry of Defence. The worst thing is when politicians say they are sorry, and they understand what we went through. They don’t understand. They’ve weakened that word, sorry,” he said. “I was so broke that I didn’t buy a bed for this flat until last year. I still don’t have carpets or curtains because I can’t afford them, and I don’t use the heating. I had to sell my computer and my bike. It was really humiliating”.
Comprehensive Improvement Plan
In September 2020, the Home Office published their “Response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review: A Comprehensive Improvement Plan”. The document includes an apology; “They had and have every right to be here in the UK. Their treatment was inexcusable, and we are truly sorry”. As the introduction explains, “This response sets out our vision for the Home Office as part of our mission to build a safe, fair, and prosperous UK. We will right the wrongs and learn from the past. We will be open to scrutiny. We will ensure that our policymaking is inclusive and robust. We will make every effort to ensure our workforce and culture are inclusive. And we will ensure that we have a more compassionate approach that looks at people, not cases”.
In total, the plan includes 30 recommendations, including:
- Running community events
- Being more proactive in identifying those affected
- Implementing a learning programme on UK history
- Establishing a repository to track progress on recommendations
- Reviewing the compliant environment
- Setting a clear purpose, mission and values statement
- Implementing a programme of major cultural change
- Improving Impact Assessments
In the view of the JCWI, the plan issued by the Home Office falls woefully short; “the plan lacks substance, is full of evasive language, and wilfully misinterprets recommendations from Wendy Williams' report. There is a failure to address the most important issues - like the hostile environment - head-on, and there is a clear determination to maintain the status quo”.
There is clearly a long way to go to right the wrongs of the past. Words in a review will be of no consequence to those who are still being affected by being labelled as illegal, and in many cases, lost everything. We will continue to keep you up to date with Windrush news in the coming weeks and months.
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