Home Office failing Windrush generation again, spending watchdog finds

The Windrush generation is being failed by the Home Office “all over again” because of fundamental problems in the compensation scheme for UK citizens misclassified as illegal immigrants, parliament’s spending watchdog has concluded.

Despite a “promise to learn lessons”, Priti Patel’s department has set up a process that is too complex and difficult for victims to engage with, and with inadequate capacity since it was launched two years ago, the public accounts committee said in a report published on Tuesday.

The report found that some people had died before their claims were dealt with. Two years after its launch, only 412 of the 2,367 claims submitted had received their final payment, MPs said.

The findings will intensify calls for the Home Office to be stripped of running the compensation scheme, which is supposed to have the capacity to handle claims from as many as 15,000 people.

They come three years after the government apologised for misclassifying thousands of legal UK residents as illegal immigrants, and more than two years after the launch of the compensation scheme.

Dame Meg Hillier, the cross-party committee’s chair, said: “Let’s not lose sight of the scale of wrongs that the Home Office has promised to right here. Lifetimes in this country were discounted, people’s homes, families and livelihoods were interrupted and uprooted, some were forced from the country. Some were approaching the end of those lifetimes as this tragedy befell them. Some have died without ever seeing justice or receiving the compensation they deserve.

“Far from learning and applying lessons as promised, the Windrush compensation scheme is beset with the very same issues that led to the initial terrible mistakes.”

The scheme was launched in April 2019 with the aim of compensating members of the Windrush generation and their families for the losses and impacts they have suffered as a result of not being able to demonstrate their lawful immigration status.

But the Home Office has frustrated victims waiting for compensation by refusing to set deadlines, MPs said.

“It is unwilling to set a timeframe for making decisions on claims, leaving claimants frustrated and reflecting no sense of urgency in improving the speed of compensation. The department has, however, set itself an internal target to conclude 90% of claims submitted before the end of 2020 by the end of August 2021, and claims to be confident it will hit it,” the report said.

The report said the Home Office “made completely wrong key assumptions” in the scheme and significantly underestimated the complexity and work involved.

“It [the Home Office] thought that around 15,000 people might be eligible, an estimate it revised down to 11,500 in October 2019. In fact it has only received about a fifth of even the revised estimate and is now looking to revise it again. It also thought that each case would take its caseworkers, on average, about 30 hours to process; whereas in practice it has taken them five times as long,” the MPs concluded.

Civil servants needed 125 caseworkers to implement the scheme, but only had six when it was launched, MPs said. The report said casework had been riddled with errors and inconsistencies, with quality assurance checks often finding that cases needed revisiting and work repeated.

The demands put upon claimants repeated some of the mistakes that led to the scandal in the first place, MPs found. “Many of the difficulties suffered by the Windrush generation were due to insufficient documentation, and yet the department designed a scheme which demands evidence it acknowledges many claimants do not have,” the report said.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been resolute in her determination to put right the wrongs suffered by all those affected by the Windrush scandal.

“Many of the issues raised in this report are already being addressed. Last week we announced further improvements to simplify the application process, new support measures for those claiming on behalf of relatives who have passed away and the removal of the scheme’s end date. All designed to ensure every victim receives the compensation they deserve.

“Since December, when the home secretary overhauled the scheme, the amount of compensation paid has risen from less than £3m to almost £27m, whilst a further £7.1m has been offered.”

Comments are closed.