Windrush compensation scheme has ‘concerning weaknesses’, says charity

There are “concerning weaknesses” in the Windrush compensation scheme, according to a legal charity that has called for the programme to be taken out of the Home Office.

A report by the charity Justice, titled Reforming the Windrush compensation scheme, makes 27 recommendations after the working group found the scheme suffers from a lack of independence, delays and inconsistencies in decision-making and lack of experience and cultural understanding among caseworkers.

The claim process is complex and many claimants require legal assistance to complete their claim, the report said; however, there is no provision of free legal representation.

Despite the initial estimate of about 15,000 people being eligible for compensation, as of the end of September 2021 only 864 people have received compensation payments, Justice said.

The report is the fourth investigation into why the compensation scheme has been so slow following reports by the Commons’ public accounts committee and home affairs select committee, as well as spending watchdog the National Audit Office.

Among the recommendations are calls for the scheme to be moved from the Home Office, preferably to an organisation independent of the government, as well as funded legal representation for claimants.

Stephanie Needleman, the acting legal director at Justice, said: “The Windrush Compensation Scheme should provide a valuable lifeline for those who have suffered losses and hardships: however, there are concerning weaknesses in the scheme’s current administrative and procedural processes.

“Through these recommendations, we hope to see structural changes to improve processes, ensuring that those who have suffered are treated with dignity and receive the compensation they are due.”

The report also calls for improved communication with claimants, including the use of video guides, correspondence that is easier to understand and regular reports on the progress of a claim.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been resolute in her determination to ensure everyone affected by the Windrush scandal receives the full compensation to which they are entitled.

“We are pleased that this report welcomes the significant improvements we have made to the scheme, including its overhaul last December. Since then the amount of compensation paid has risen from less than £3m to over £31.6m, with a further £5.6m having been offered.

“Many of the issues raised in this report are already being addressed and several recommendations have previously been considered.

“For example, we continue to firmly believe that moving the operation of the scheme out of the Home Office would risk significantly delaying vital payments to those affected. However, we are always open to making further improvements and will reflect carefully on the report’s findings.”

General Politics