The long-awaited Windrush compensation scheme has finally arrived. Despite declarations from the home secretary Sajid Javid that the fund “is simple, it is accessible and, above all, it is fair”, many Windrush generation residents will struggle to receive the recompense they are due as the payouts on offer are anything but just.
For example, a person who was wrongly deported from the UK, after living legally in the country for decades, will receive a paltry £10,000. Someone who was prevented from accessing NHS healthcare after paying taxes for years will be offered £500, while those who were denied housing services can claim £1,000.
These tariffs, says Jamie Beagent, head of human rights at Leigh Day Solicitors, are low in comparison to those which the Windrush generation and their families could receive if they sought compensation via a court claim.
That’s not all. To access these derisory sums, eligible applicants must submit the same reams of evidence that were routinely dismissed by the Home Office when they were trying to prove that they were indeed British citizens.
A person claiming for losses related to their earnings after being denied the right to work will need to produce a letter showing they received a job offer, another letter showing their acceptance of the job offer, and a third letter from the employer withdrawing the offer due to their unsettled immigration status. Those people who are unable to provide these documents will have their awards reduced or declined.
Judging from the way the scheme has been set up, it appears that the government’s expressions of contrition over the Windrush scandal amount to little. While this magazine has no wish to discourage people from seeking compensation – and it’s good to know that the Citizens Advice will provide some support – the scheme’s labyrinthine nature suggests that it was designed, from the outset, to set people up to fail.
Not only will this be an exercise in frustration but the onerous evidential requirements illustrate why the Windrush scandal erupted in the first place. The burden of proof required to receive minimal compensation simply adds insult to an already grievous set of injuries inflicted by a government department that lacks any real sense of remorse.
Citizens Advice to provide support
The Citizens Advice has set up a new service providing additional support to people applying for the Home Office’s Windrush Compensation scheme.
The service, which went live in April, is funded by the Home Office. It is available nationwide and provides face-to-face and telephone support to victims of the Windrush scandal living in the UK and abroad who need help with completing the claim forms.
The service is open to Windrush generation residents, their children and grandchildren who are applying to the compensation scheme, provided they have already lodged their details with the Windrush Helpline.
For more information, contact Citizens Advice by visiting www.citizensadvice.org.uk or calling the Adviceline on 03444 111 444 or 03444 111 4450800 (Text relay).
Extra support and advice
Those people wishing to regularise their immigration status can contact the Home Office’s dedicated Windrush helpline on the freephone number 0800 678 1925. The lines are open Monday to Saturday from 9am until 5pm. They are also open on Sundays from 10am until 4pm. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
No deadline has been set to take up the free citizenship offer, but immigration specialists and migrant rights activists are advising those affected to call the helpline only after they have received professional immigration advice. A failed application could lead to enforcement action, especially if the applicant has a criminal record.
A number of specialist immigration charities and organisations are offering their services free to people caught up in the Windrush scandal. They are:
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a national charity which offers free and confidential legal assistance to people without the right immigration documents. To access this help, call the specialist irregular migrant helpline on 020 7553 7470 between 10am and 1pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also send an email to email@example.com. For more information, visit www.jcwi.org.uk.
The Immigration Advice Service is offering free, one-to-one advice sessions to Windrush generation residents who are worried about their current status; have received a letter from the Home Office and are unsure of how to proceed; need document advice or need advice about their British citizenship application. The advice will be tailored to individual situations, the IAS said. For more information, visit www.iasservices.org.uk or call 0333 3637 231.
Leigh Day Solicitors is preparing a potential group action against the Home Office on behalf of members of the Windrush generation. If you or a family member has been affected by the Home Office’s hostile environment immigration policy, the firm could be of help to you. For more information, visit www.leighday.co.uk or call the firm in confidence on 020 7650 1200.
If you or someone in your family believes that they have been treated unlawfully and you would like to challenge an unjust and unlawful decision made by a public body, the Public Interest Law Centre might be able to help. You can contact the charity by visiting www.pilu.org.uk, calling 020 7840 2000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.