The National Audit Office (NAO) has found the Windrush Compensation Scheme has not yet met its objective of compensating claimants quickly. The number of people who have received payments has increased since December 2020, but operational challenges remain.
In 2018, the Home Office acknowledged serious shortcomings in its treatment of the Windrush generation, who had suffered harm due to the Department’s ‘hostile environment’ policies. Members of the Windrush generation were required to demonstrate their lawful immigration status to access public services, housing and jobs. Some struggled to do this even though they were living in the UK legally. In 2019, the Home Office launched the Windrush Compensation Scheme (the scheme) as part of a set of measures to “right the wrongs” experienced by the Windrush generation and their families.
In December 2020, the Home Office made changes to the scheme following criticism about the complexity of the application process, the length of time it takes for claimants to receive payment, and that payments were not sufficient to reflect the suffering endured by the Windrush generation. A cross-government working group recommended that the Home Office introduce preliminary payments of £10,000 to those who could demonstrate that they had suffered harm.1 The Home Office made this change, increased its ‘impact on life’ payments, and made changes to awards for loss of access to employment.
When the Home Office launched the scheme in April 2019, it estimated it might pay out compensation worth between £120 million and £310 million to 15,000 people. This was based on information from its immigration systems and the 2011 census, as the Home Office did not know how many people might be eligible for compensation. 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 Home Office has received 19% of the claims it estimated it might receive. By the end of March 2021, the Department had received 2,163 claims.2 Of these 1,732 (80%) were from individuals, 313 (14%) were from family members, and 118 (5%) were on behalf of the estate of someone who had passed away. The Home Office’s internal figures show that it has made final decisions on 38% of all claims it has received to date, although some of these are still subject to a review or have not yet resulted in a payment.
To the end of March 2021, the Home Office had paid £14.3 million to 633 people. Of the money paid out, £11.6 million (81%) has been paid to claimants after policy changes were made to the scheme in December 2020.3 The NAO estimates that since December 2020, the Home Office has paid £2.6 million in preliminary payments, and £4.24 million in increased impact on life payments.
It takes, on average, 154 staff hours to process a case through to payment approval, considerably longer than the 30 hours the Home Office estimated it would when the scheme was launched. The NAO has found that 10% of the 1,033 claims received since March 2020 have reached the payment decision stages, and it has taken an average of 177 days for claims to reach this stage. The Home Office intends to speed up its claims processing in the next few months.
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. The Home Office stated that 125 full-time caseworkers were needed for the scheme from the outset, but when it launched in 2019, 6 full-time caseworkers were in post. The Home Office has struggled to provide the NAO with a consistent picture of its current and future staffing requirements.
The Home Office’s quality assurance processes are not identifying all errors. The NAO’s analysis shows that half of cases were returned to caseworkers for further work. However, some claims have proceeded to payment without errors being identified. As of March 2021, the Home Office is aware of six overpayments, totalling £38,292. The NAO also identified further errors and inconsistencies in how caseworkers have calculated compensation.
21 individuals who were entitled to compensation from the scheme, have since died without receiving any compensation.