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Last Update: 2 Hour and 28 Minute ago
News code: 29000
Published Date: Saturday 8 February 2020 - 13:57:35
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Only 3% of Windrush claimants have so far received compensation: UK Home Office

Only 3% of Windrush claimants have so far received compensation: UK Home Office
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The extension follows frustration from people who have already submitted claims or who have attempted to fill in the compensation form. Campaigners have called on the government to fund legal advice so claimants can be helped to apply.

The Home Office has paid out a total of just £62,198 to 36 people so far - just over 3% of claimants - out of a compensation pot that could distribute somewhere between £200m and £570m. Over 1,100 people have submitted claims.

It is not clear how many people were affected by the scandal - many people lost jobs and homes, were denied benefits or healthcare, and in extreme cases were detained or deported - but since the government first apologised for the mistake in April 2018 over 8,000 people have been given documents confirming they are here legally.

A two-year extension to the compensation deadline has been introduced, so that people affected by the immigration scandal, in which the Home Office wrongly classified thousands of legal UK residents as illegal immigrants, now have until April 2023 to claim.

The Home Office has also promised to make the application process more flexible, agreeing to take a wider range of circumstances into account. People will no longer be asked to prove that they took immediate steps to resolve their immigration status when they realised there was a problem.

Charities working with claimants said that many people affected were so alarmed at being told they were here illegally that for years they avoided any interactions with the Home Office or any official organization.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, said: "Successive governments failed the Windrush generation, which is why we have listened to feedback from community leaders and those affected, to hear how the government can begin to do justice to those who have contributed so much to our country."

The Home Office's announcement was welcomed by groups supporting people to apply for compensation but there was disappointment that no money had been allocated to pay for legal advice. There has been funding for Citizens Advice to assist applicants but feedback from claimants has been mixed.

One of those still awaiting compensation is Joycelyn John.The Home Office booked her on to a flight to Grenada, a country she had not lived in since leaving aged four in 1963 after telling her she was here illegally. She applied last April and is angry at the long wait, not least because she remains in debt as a result of the issue. She spent 18 months semi-destitute in Grenada, before being allowed to return when the problem was uncovered in 2018.

"I ring every week and they tell me: ‘I can't give you any information, it is with a case worker, it is being processed,'" she said. Receiving compensation would represent "an end to all the grief".

Some applicants who have been granted money say they are unhappy with the amount, and put this down to not having had advice when they filled in the form. Glenda Caesar said she was going to turn down the £22,000 she was offered in December, describing it as "insultingly low" because it only covered a year's loss of earnings even though she was out of work for a decade because she was deemed to be here illegally. She came to Britain legally as a three-month-old child in 1961. The Home Office scheme allows people to ask for the payment to be reviewed.

Martin Forde, the barrister who designed the scheme, said the changes meant the scheme would "be easier to navigate, more accessible than ever and will provide fair compensation to all those affected".

Bell Rebeiro-Addy, the shadow immigration minister, said it was disappointing that so few people have received payments. "It is good that the scheme has been extended but there are people who are still destitute after what happened to them. They need to access support quickly," she said.

Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon said he hoped the government would fund advice services to assist applicants, in the same way that money had been allocated to fund organizations helping EU nationals apply for settled status after Brexit. Applicants have to fill in an 18-page form, which has 43 pages of guidance, and requires substantial documentary evidence. Lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie, who has been giving pro bono advice to dozens of those affected by the Windrush scandal, said she was "astonished by the very low rates that have been paid out".

She said: "A very large cohort of people is really struggling to make applications even with the help of the Citizens Advice."

 

News Code: 29000
Published Date: Saturday 8 February 2020 - 13:57:35
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