Home Office treated Windrush claimants like ‘benefits scroungers’, says campaigner

Campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE has said initial offers to the victims were “pathetic” and claimed the Home Office treated applicants as “benefits scroungers”.

The Home Office treated claimants for the Windrush compensation scheme like “benefit scroungers”, a prominent campaigner has alleged.

The Windrush scandal resulted in people with a right to live in the UK being wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean.

Now a scheme to compensate victims has seen only 5% of potential claimants receive payments, a parliamentary report has revealed.

Campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE has said initial offers to the victims were “pathetic” and claimed the Home Office treated applicants as “benefits scroungers”.

Mr Vernon, a former advisor to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, told LondonWorld: “A lot of people don’t trust the Home Office so a lot of them haven’t come forward yet,”

“While those who have made the claim are still waiting to find out the final results.

“Some of them were given really pathetic offers initially and so that’s why there’s a big backlog of appeals because the Home Office have treated them like benefits scroungers.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said they were continuing to make improvements, and that “there is no cap on the amount of compensation we will pay out”.

It comes as a new report from the home affairs select committee revealed that only 5% of potential claimants had received compensation four years after the scandal emerged.

The committee also revealed only 20% of 15,000 eligible claimants had applied to the scheme and that 23 eligible applicants had died before getting a payment.

The scheme was launched on April 3 2019 to compensate members of the Windrush generation who were affected as a result of Home Office policies.

The report called for the scheme to be transferred to an independent organisation to “rebuild trust” and for preliminary payments of £10,000 to to be paid immediately to victims.

A “litany of flaws” were found in the scheme’s design and operation including huge amounts of paperwork, long processing delays, poor communication and inadequate staffing.

Mr Vernon, a former Labour councillor and social commentator said the cross-party committee has adopted a lot of the actions he has called for.

“The report has endorsed and validated the campaign I’ve been running to remove the Windrush Compensation Scheme from the Home Office since it launched,” he said.

“The other thing they have adopted is that automatic payments of £10,000 should be given to anyone being caught up in the scandal regardless of how much they put a claim in for.

“They should still get £10,000, straightaway with an apology and can then make a claim.”

Mr Vernon said he spoke to a number of claimants in London who struggled to understand the forms, while others took 18 months to gather the confidence to submit a claim.

The report called for Home Office ministers to admit serious harm was inflicted on people and to provide an “unqualified apology” to those affected and the Afro-Caribbean community.

“No amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one, no amount of money can compensate for your life being on hold for several years,” said Mr Vernon

“The scheme has to be empathetic and recognise the different trauma they’re going through.

“The Home Office could organise the £10,000 automatic payment right now. They’ve got the names and addresses of all of the victims on a database - they could write out a cheque.

“They need to provide legal aid for the victims and their families so that they can get further legal assistance to complete an appeal for compensation claims.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary and the department remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that members of the Windrush generation receive every penny of compensation that they are entitled to.

“The Home Secretary overhauled the Scheme in December to ensure more money is paid more quickly – since then the amount of compensation paid has risen from less than £3 million to over £31.6 million, with a further £5.6 million having been offered. There is no cap on the amount of compensation we will pay out.

“We are pleased this report welcomes the changes made to the Scheme in December and we continue to make improvements, such as simplifying the application process, hiring more caseworkers and removing the end date.

“We firmly believe that moving the operation of the scheme out of the Home Office would risk significantly delaying vital payments to those affected.”