Monday, April 22

Windrush: only one in four applicants have received compensation | windrush scandal

Only one in four applicants to the Windrush compensation scheme have received payments four years after the government promised redress for those wrongly classified by the Home Office as illegal immigrants.

Fewer than 7% of the 15,000 compensation claims the government originally expected to have received a payment. Ahead of Windrush Day on Wednesday, claimants continued to report long delays and high levels of skepticism from officials handling their applications.

Cuthbert Prospere, 59, who arrived in the UK from St Lucia as a four-year-old in 1967, has been unable to persuade compensation staff that he lost his job as a security guard at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, London, because of his documentation issues. This is despite a letter from the former bishop of Salisbury confirming he was a respected member of staff.

Prosper struggled for decades to prove he was in the UK legally and lost several jobs, including with the church, because he was unable to obtain the required security guard qualifications as a result of having no passport.

His application for compensation states: “Inability to demonstrate his legal right to reside in the UK has caused him to effectively lead a life of fear. He has missed numerous life opportunities and has been denied the right to pursue his goals from him and lead a normal life. His lack of immigration status has trapped him in a cycle of poverty which he has made great attempts to escape.

However, Home Office case workers said it was not possible “on the balance of probabilities” to conclude he was unable to access employment or that he lost his job “due to his inability to demonstrate lawful status”. His claim for loss of earnings was rejected despite two appeals, and he has recently accepted a smaller settlement in recognition of the “stress and anxiety” he suffered.

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“When I read the response, I felt they were saying the job I lost was a figment of my imagination and that I was lying about the whole thing. It made me very depressed and angry not to have been believed,” he said. “The government promised to be fair and just. I’m trying not to be upset about it.”

Nicholas Holtam, who was the church’s vicar until 2011 when he was appointed bishop of Salisbury, confirmed Prospere had been employed as a contracted security guard for a “significant number of years”. He said it was hard to access the employment records of the church for that period, making it impossible to provide documentary proof.

“I always thought he was a good soul but that may not be enough for the Home Office,” he said. Lawyers also submitted photographs and letters of appreciation sent to Prospere while he worked at the church.

A Home Office spokesperson said of the 3,878 lodged claims, 50% had received final decisions, of whom 50% had been offered compensation. They added: “The mistreatment of the Windrush generation by successive governments was completely unacceptable and the home secretary will right those wrongs. We continue to process claims under the Windrush compensation scheme which has now paid out £40.5m across 1,037 claims, with a further £8.2m offered, awaiting acceptance or pending review.”

Prospere’s solicitor, Imran Khan QC, said: “The compensation scheme was touted as simple and straightforward. Cuthbert’s experience shows that, in reality, the scheme is operating to make it as difficult as possible for applicants to get redress. Applicants, like Cuthbert, are made to feel like they are liars. Every conceivable hurdle has been placed in his way of him, so the injustice he suffered in not being able to make a living because of his immigration status is aggravated by the injustice of being refused the compensation he deserves.

The Leigh Day solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie, who is handling about 200 compensation claims, said she was “extremely concerned about the slowness of the scheme”. “People hear nothing for months and then are asked for information they have already sent. The case work is very poor,” she said.

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