Sat. Apr 20th, 2024
alert-–-nearly-1,500-windrush-compensation-claims-still-to-be-settled-by-the-home-office-five-years-on-from-the-scheme-being-launched-amid-growing-fears-many-victims-are-dying-before-they-get-payoutsAlert – Nearly 1,500 Windrush compensation claims still to be settled by the Home Office five years on from the scheme being launched amid growing fears many victims are dying before they get payouts

Nearly 1,500 compensation claims from the Windrush scandal are still to be settled by the Home Office five years on from the launch of the scheme.

Amid growing concerns about the number of people dying before receiving payouts, there are fresh calls for an overhaul of the process.

The Government has been accused of waiting for Windrush scandal victims to ‘die off’, with campaigners branding the compensation scheme a ‘failure’.

They have also repeated calls for the Home Office being stripped of responsibility for overseeing the scheme and for it to be handed to an independent body.

The Windrush scandal saw many British citizens – mostly from the Caribbean – denied access to healthcare and benefits and threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in the UK.

A compensation scheme has been in place since 3 April 2019 but, nearly five years on, not all claims have been settled.

Conroy Downie, a 67-year-old Windrush victim who has been advising thousands of others on how to make compensation claims, is still waiting for his case to be fully settled

Conroy Downie, a 67-year-old Windrush victim who has been advising thousands of others on how to make compensation claims, is still waiting for his case to be fully settled

Campaigners have branded the compensation scheme for victims a 'failure' and demanded the Home Office be stripped of responsibility

Campaigners have branded the compensation scheme for victims a ‘failure’ and demanded the Home Office be stripped of responsibility

The British liner 'Empire Windrush' (pictured in 1954) that gave its name to the 'Windrush' generation

The British liner ‘Empire Windrush’ (pictured in 1954) that gave its name to the ‘Windrush’ generation

According to an analysis of the latest available Home Office figures, 7,862 claims have been made as of January 2024.

A total of £80.1million had been paid out by the end of the first month of this year for 2,233 claims – an average of nearly £35,900 per claim.

Some 4,847 claims had been fully closed by this time, of which just over half (52 per cemt) were found to have no entitlement to compensation, 36 per cent were offered compensation, and the remaining 12 per cent had their eligibility for a claim refused or withdrawn.

Of the 1,345 claims still being processed, 185 (14 per cent) had been in the system for at least 12 months, including 83 for more than 18 months.

This is a slight improvement on a year ago; at the end of January 2023, 19 per cent of claims (416 out of 2,192) had been in the system for a year or more, with 171 for more than 18 months.

Conroy Downie, a 67-year-old Windrush victim who has been advising thousands of others on how to make compensation claims, is still waiting for his case to be fully settled.

‘It’s a failure, it’s disgusting. I think they are waiting for us to die off,’ he told the PA news agency.

The great-grandfather, who was born in Jamaica and came to the UK as a teenager before joining the Army, twice wrongly faced deportation amid the scandal.

He said ‘the system has failed us’ as he described how one of the main problems was that people still ‘don’t trust the Home Office’.

‘They need to take the compensation scheme off the Home Office and give it to an independent body,’ he added.

Immigration and human rights lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie, who has worked with more than 400 Windrush victims, said: ‘Like the Post Office Horizon scandal, it is deplorable that the scheme is managed by the perpetrators of the wrong.’

The partner and head of immigration and asylum law at the firm Leigh Day said the Home Office ‘must speed up the decision making’ and work with lawyers and campaigners to bring about reform.

While there have been ‘some improvements’ over the years, ‘we are still some way to go to say the scheme is operating in an efficient way’, she added.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said while the latest figures show ‘modest improvements’ in the performance of the scheme, ‘many people are still waiting far too long for the redress they are due – over a year or even 18 months in the worst cases’.

She added: ‘This is unacceptable, especially given that for many of the older applicants time is not on their side.’

Repeating calls to ‘shift the scheme’s administration to an independent body, so claimants have the confidence to apply’ and for a ‘redesign’ so it provides ‘fair recompense’ for loss of future earnings and pensions income, Ms Abrahams said: ‘The Windrush compensation scheme can be made fairer and easier to access if the political will is there in Government.

‘It’s high time everyone affected received the justice they are due before it’s too late and more people go to their graves uncompensated for the enormous harm they and their families have experienced through the years.’

The Home Office insisted the Government ‘remains absolutely committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal’ and has continued to improve the process so people ‘receive the maximum award as quickly as possible’.

‘We firmly believe moving the operation of the scheme away from the Home Office would risk significantly delaying vital payments to people – there would be considerable disruption to the processing of outstanding claims whilst a new body was established and made operational,’ a spokeswoman added.