People are dying waiting for Windrush compensation, says Age UK

The chief executive of Age UK has criticised the “inadequate” Windrush Compensation Scheme almost five years after it was launched, highlighting that more than 50 people have died waiting for their claims to be processed.

Paul Farmer, writing in the foreword for a new report, said that “at least 53 people have already died waiting for their claims to be decided”, adding: “Time is not on the side of those waiting for compensation.”

The charity chief, introducing the report called Justice Denied: Reforming the Windrush Compensation Scheme, said: “What makes this scandal even worse is that rather than righting the wrongs, the Windrush Compensation Scheme has itself become a cause of further distress.”

The Windrush scandal, which emerged in 2018, saw many British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, denied access to healthcare and benefits and threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in the UK.

The Government promised to right the wrongs of what had happened but the compensation scheme, launched in April 2019, has been repeatedly criticised for the speed at which claims are being processed and payments made.

Age UK’s new report claims that a number of areas of the compensation scheme are failing those affected.

These include the decision to make the Home Office responsible for administering the scheme, when it was the “department responsible for the original injustices faced by the Windrush Generation as a result of their hostile environment policies”.

“We’ve heard from older people affected and Windrush campaigners that many are fearful and unwilling to apply to the scheme, given their low levels of trust in the Home Office and following a history of negative experiences,” the report said.

The report is also critical of administrative delays and errors, the appeals process and issues surrounding compensation levels.

The charity said that by the end of 2023 only 1,993 individuals had been offered compensation, fewer than one in seven (13%) of all whom the Home Office estimates to be eligible.

Age UK said that the Home Office’s original assumption was that 15,000 people would be eligible but, by the end of 2023, only 7,688 claims had been made, with significant numbers of those affected still awaiting justice and restitution.

It is calling for an independent body to take over the running of the compensation scheme from the Home Office.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Age UK, said: “The Windrush Compensation Scheme could be made much fairer and easier to access, with the requisite political will.

“Ministers need to act quickly before it’s too late and more people go to their graves uncompensated for the enormous harm they and their families have experienced through the years.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government remains absolutely committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal, already paying out more than £75 million in compensation, and continuing to make improvements so people receive the maximum award as quickly as possible.

“As at the end of December, over 80% of claims had received a final decision on their applications.

“For those who claim under the Windrush Compensation Scheme, free assistance is provided through our independent provider, We Are Group, who have extensive experience of working with elderly as well as those who are isolated and vulnerable people.”

The report comes as a debate is due to take place in the House of Lords on Thursday, tabled by Baroness Floella Benjamin, on the Windrush scandal and the implementation and effectiveness of the compensation scheme.