The UK government’s watchdog has found that victims of the Windrush scandal have experienced “log waits” and delays in receiving compensation.
The National Audit Office (NAO) concluded that those impacted by the scandal - which saw the unlawful detainment, deportation and denial of rights of thousands of Carribean immigrants - had been failed by the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
When the scheme was set up in April 2019, it initially estimated that it could pay out between £120 million and £310 million to 15,000 people, based on information from its immigration systems and the 2011 census.
‘Operational challenges remain’
The department was unsure how many people might be eligible for compensation.
Revealing the lack of compensation payouts, the NAO said: “Having revised its estimates in October 2019, the Home Office subsequently expected to pay compensation worth between £60 million and £260 million to 11,500 people.
“The number of people who have received payments has increased since December 2020, but operational challenges remain.”
According to official data, 2,193 claims have been submitted since the scheme launched two years ago.
The figures also show 122 claims were for people who had already died, but only three had resulted in payments so far.
An individual claim takes approximately 154 staff hours to process through to payment approval, considerably longer than the 30 hours the Home Office estimated when the scheme was launched, according to the NAO’s report.
‘People are still facing long waits’
The report added: “By March 2021, the Home Office had spent £8.1 million of its £15.8 million budget running the scheme, with £6.3 million of this spent on staff.”
Analysis also found half of cases were “returned to caseworkers for further work” but “some claims have proceeded to payment without errors being identified”, while it also reported inconsistencies in how compensation was calculated by caseworkers.
By March this year the department was aware of six overpayments, totalling £38,292.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “The Windrush Compensation Scheme was rolled out before it was ready to receive applications and two years after it was launched people are still facing long waits to receive their final compensation payment.
“Since December 2020, the Home Office has made some progress, but it needs to sustain its efforts to improve the scheme to ensure it fairly compensates members of the Windrush generation in acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused them.”
Last week, the Home Office said it has paid £14.3 million in compensation to 633 people and offered a further £12 million.
£8 million was paid in March, more than double that paid in the initial 20 months since the scheme launched.
Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said it was “completely unacceptable that the vast majority of those affected still haven’t received a penny in compensation”.
‘Determined to put right the terrible injustices’
Appeals have been made against decisions in more than 200 cases, while 202 eligible applicants were told they were not entitled to any money because their claims did not demonstrate they had been adversely affected by the scandal.
There have been 119 claims rejected on eligibility grounds.
Victims were promised greater amounts and a quicker turnaround on claims following complaints of difficulties in claiming compensation.
Minimum payments have risen from £250 to £10,000 while the maximum has increased from £10,000 to £100,000.
Many victims of the scandal lost homes and jobs and were denied access to healthcare and benefits, it emerged in 2018.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the department is “determined to put right the terrible injustices faced by the Windrush generation by successive governments” and is in the process of hiring more caseworkers, adding: “We know there is more to do and will continue to work hard to ensure payments are made faster and the awards offered are greater.”