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The government is repeating its failings for Windrush victims

People gather to protest at the Home Office in central London after deportation threats to Windrush generation migrants, April 2018 | Alamy

3 min read

The Windrush scandal was the culmination of decades of hostile treatment and its consequences cannot be understated.

Jobs lost, access to housing and key services withheld and in severe cases people wrongfully deported despite having every right to live in the UK and therefore fully entitled to enjoy the rights we take for granted. These are life changing events and it is right that people are compensated for what was done to them.

Yet four years on and we are still waiting for these wrongs to be righted. Of the 15,000 people estimated to be eligible, 3,300 have so far submitted an application for compensation, of which less than 1,000 have received any payment. Worse still, 23 people have died before receiving any redress for the hardship they endured.

Today in Parliament, we are holding a Westminster Hall debate to ensure that those who suffered cannot be forgotten. We want to make sure that the Windrush Compensation scheme is fit for purpose and understand what more can be done to improve how quickly people can access the compensation they deserve.

The same kind of bureaucratic failures that caused the scandal are being repeated and this isn’t good enough

Since this scandal broke in 2018, the Home Affairs Committee has dedicated much time to holding the government to account on this issue. Our most recent report lambasted the ongoing delays and called for a transformation in how the scheme operated and claims handled. There is an excessive burden on claimants to provide documentary evidence of losses, long delays in processing and poor communication. The same kind of bureaucratic failures that caused the scandal are being repeated and this isn’t good enough.

It is disheartening that, in its response to our report, the government failed to sufficiently grasp that the current approach isn’t working. Indications that there will be more work to improve engagement and increase the number of caseworkers are welcome. However, there is still a lack of clarity on how claims are assessed and an assumption that applicants can easily navigate the complex system on their own.

It is also disappointing that the Home Office is unable to proactively identify and provide initial payments to those who were wrongly subject to immigration enforcement measures or denied proof of their lawful status. If it is accepted that wrongdoing has occurred in an individual claim, the Home Office should issue an initial payment without delay, irrespective of whether the claimant can evidence harm or financial losses caused.

We on the Home Affairs Committee will continue to press the government until the compensation scheme works. Further delay is unacceptable and we must now have a real transformation in how the scheme operates. The only outcome that matters is those that have suffered so much receiving the compensation they deserve.

 

Dame Diana Johnson is Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North and chair of the Home Affairs Committee

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