Two victims of the Windrush scandal have taken legal action against the Home Office over prolonged delays in awarding compensation, asking for clarification on how claims can be expedited.
Henry Vaughan, 67, and Fitzroy Maynard, 55, both struggle financially as they live in inadequate housing. They say they are unable to begin to rebuild their lives after years of trouble caused by the government’s erroneous decision to classify them as illegal immigrants.
Vaughan, who arrived in 1961 from Jamaica at the age of seven to join his mother who worked at a London hospital, had decades of difficulty proving he was legally in the UK, and the stress cumulative triggered serious health problems.
Maynard arrived in the UK at the age of 14, from Antigua in 1980. He was homeless for several years, lived on the streets after losing his job as a house keeper, and was unable to find a new job because he was unable to persuade employers that he had the right to live and work in the UK.
Both received documents from the Windrush task force, after the government apologized in 2018 for falsely classifying thousands of legal residents as illegal immigrants, but both experienced long delays after seeking compensation. Vaughan applied 10 months ago, Maynard 18 months ago.
The forensic review, launched by London law firm Leigh Day on behalf of the men, calls on the Home Office to issue guidance on its process for shipping claims under the Windrush compensation scheme.
Court proceedings indicate that the average wait time for a claimant to receive a final payment is 434 days, although many claimants are in desperate need of financial compensation.
The legal team found that there is an internal system under which urgent cases can be expedited, but there is no public information on how to request expedited processing. Lawyers argue that the prioritization system needs to be clarified so that people in need, such as the elderly and disabled, can request a shipment.
Maynard is hopeful that compensation could help him leave the single room he shares with his six-year-old daughter. The property has been infested with rats and the other occupants of the building are vulnerable single men.
âThere’s nowhere she can play. It’s far from ideal, “he said.” The compensation process is so stressful – it makes you think they’re hoping people will go away and decide not to bother. . “
Vaughan wishes he could use the compensation money to help his children. âI’ve been waiting for almost two years. I have the impression that maybe they are waiting for me to die. We are old, we do not have 20 or 30 years ahead of us, âhe said.
The Windrush compensation program has been in the throes of controversy since its inception two and a half years ago. The candidates expressed unease at the prospect of their claims being decided by the same Home Office staff who were responsible for the harsh environment policies that caused many of their initial difficulties.
The longest-serving black Home Office worker on the Windrush Compensation Program team resigned last year, calling the program consistently racist and unsuitable. We know that at least 21 people died before receiving the requested compensation. Labor demanded that the program be withdrawn from the Home Office and administered by an independent body.
Improvements were made to the program and a Home Office spokesperson said more than 13,800 people had received documents confirming their immigration status or British citizenship through the Windrush program, and the government had paid over Â£ 29million out of 889 claims.
But the low participation rate in a scheme that was initially expected to help more than 10,000 people and pay out at least Â£ 200million remains a cause for concern. Program chief Tom Greig was seconded in August to work on the Afghan resettlement program, raising concerns that the program has been deprioritized.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: âThe Home Secretary has been resolute in her determination to right the wrongs suffered by all those affected by the Windrush scandal. In July, she made further improvements to simplify the application process, announced new supports for people claiming on behalf of deceased loved ones, and removed the program’s end date – all designed to ensure that every victim receives the compensation it deserves as quickly as possible. possible.”
John Crowley, a lawyer for Leigh Day, said: âWithout knowing that shipping is an option, you cannot make an effective request. Applicants for the Windrush Compensation Program have experienced constant delays, and in our experience, unless there is a clear policy on when a claim should be expedited, social workers tend to put new requests at the bottom of the pile, even for those who need them most urgently. , like our customers who are the bearers of this challenge.