Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Windrush Scandal Compensation Scheme on verge of crashing

Entity set up to sensitise prospective claimants

Published:Saturday | September 23, 2023 | 12:05 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
Garrick Prayogg (left) and Roland Houslin, founders of Justice For Windrush Generation.
Garrick Prayogg (left) and Roland Houslin, founders of Justice For Windrush Generation.

SINCE THE Windrush Compensation Scheme’s launch in 2019, £65.78 million has been paid to 1,757 claims and a further £11.98 million has been offered, according to the UK government. Now, for the past several months there are reports in the media that the Home Office is planning to scale back the scheme because it is undersubscribed, the number of people applying is way below the anticipated number.

An online INDEPENDENT article by Nadine White, race correspondent, published on Sunday, August 13, says, “Simon Murray, a member of the House of Lords and the parliamentary under-secretary of state for migration and borders, confirmed that projections for the number of victims now expected to get payments would be reduced because ‘significantly fewer claims than initially anticipated have been received.”

But, there are widespread complaints that the compensation is too hard to access; that the scheme is “so bureaucratic and complicated”; that some victims had died before their cases could be resolved; and that others had been too “traumatised and intimidated” to apply. “Ministers have previously acknowledged that distrust in the government is one reason for the low uptake, yet there has been no robust plan of action as to how the department plans to address this,” the article also says.

Several organisations are watching the development and are insisting that the factors inspiring the low number of claims be addressed, instead of scaling back the scheme by reducing the amount of available funds. It is not the first time the Home Office had reduced the scheme. In 2020, it had slashed its estimated payout totals from £112 million to £86 million.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme was established in April 2019 by the UK government to compensate people who were affected by the ‘Windrush Scandal’. People are allowed to claim compensation if they had suffered losses because they could not show that they had a right to live in the UK.

The scheme was created to “right the wrongs” of the scandal. The affected can claim for compensation for losses relating to employment, immigration fees, housing, health, education, driving licences, banking, daily life (such as missing major family events or could not travel), detention and removal from the UK, and living expenses (such as food and household essentials, travel and prescription fees).

They may apply if they had gone to the UK from a Commonwealth country before 1973; if their parents or grandparents had gone to the UK from a Commonwealth country before 1973; if they had gone to the UK from any country before December 31, 1988, and are now settled there; if they are close family members of people who are eligible to claim and had suffered significant losses themselves; or representing the estate of someone who would have been eligible to claim.

One of the organisations fighting for the scheme to stay afloat by way of sensitising prospective claimants is Justice for Windrush Generations (JFWG), established by Garrick Prayogg and Roland Houslin and colleagues in July 2022 to raise public awareness about the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

“I’m not taken aback by this development. From the onset, there has been a deliberate effort from the Home Office to limit the scheme’s scope, often downplaying the efforts of lawyers and advocates working tirelessly to assist the Windrush Generation and their descendants. This attitude and mindset of the Home Office is one of the many reasons why there aren’t many more applicants applying to the scheme,” Houslin told The Gleaner, recently.

According to him, the objectives are “to make more victims of the Hostile Environment be aware of the Windrush Scheme, especially those outside the UK” and “to campaign for changes to the scheme in regards to both compensation and status in order to make it better and fit for purpose”. This includes lobbying Parliament.

“We collaborate with various organisations of various initiatives to promote the scheme, and campaign to get changes to the scheme. We host rallies at the House of Commons (HOC) every other month. We will next be in the HOC on 13th November 2023 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. GMT,” Houslin said.

To initiate the process, claimants should contact the JFWG, which will assist them with completing the application forms for both compensation and status, including returning resident visas for those outside the UK. So, far over 25 people have benefited through JFWG from compensation and immigration status. Its website is www.justiceforwindrushgenerations.co.uk and the contact email addresses are rhouslin1@gmail.com and justiceforwindrushgenerations@gmail.com (Garrick Prayogg).

Another one of JFWG’S strategies is the hosting of a ‘Windrush Compensation Scheme Sunday Zoom Chat’ where affected people can find out more about the Home Office’s Windrush Compensation Scheme. The chat is held every second and last Sunday of each month at 2 p.m, BST. Thus, a chat will be in session this coming Sunday, September 24, when the Windrush Compensation Scheme eligibility and entitlement will be discussed at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85460701484?pwd=cG52RTR0MUZKdDZTSkNXZkZGRFdEUT09. The meeting ID is 854 6070 1484, while the passcode is 132698, and the dial-in number is 0203481 5237.