The Windrush Compensation Scheme: Government Response to the Committee’s Fifth Report

Government response to a report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee

Third Special Report of Session 2021–22

Author: Home Affairs Committee

Related inquiry: The Windrush Compensation Scheme

Date Published: 7 February 2022

Download and Share

Contents

Third Special Report

The Home Affairs Committee published its Fifth Report of Session 2021–22, The Windrush Compensation Scheme HC 204), on 24 November 2021. The Government’s response was received on 27 January 2022 and is appended to this report.

In the Government response the Committee’s recommendations are shown in bold italic type; the Government’s response is shown in plain type.

Appendix: Government Response

Recommendation 1 (paragraph 2, page 87)

Many people who have applied for compensation have yet to receive a penny and we have heard too many stories of people struggling with impossible demands for evidence, poor communication from the Home Office and a lack of understanding of the issues they faced. For some, the experience of applying for compensation from the Home Office has become a source of further trauma rather than redress. Many of the concerns raised with us about the Windrush Compensation Scheme as part of this inquiry have echoes of the same criticisms made of the Home Office by Wendy Williams in her report into how the Windrush scandal occurred. It is a damning indictment of the Home Office that the design and operation of this scheme contained the same bureaucratic insensitivities that led to the Windrush scandal in the first place, and suggests that the culture change promised in the wake of the scandal has not yet occurred. We are deeply concerned that delays and difficulties in the compensation scheme have compounded the injustices faced by members of the Windrush generation. As a result, we urge Wendy Williams to look at the compensation scheme as part of her review of the Home Office’s progress on her recommendations.

Government Response

Since April 2019, the Compensation Scheme has paid out or offered over £38 million in compensation. Our December 2020 overhaul of the Scheme has had an immediate beneficial impact on the amount paid out—within six weeks we had offered more than we had in the previous 19 months of the Scheme. As of the end of October, the Home Office has paid more than ten times the total amount paid prior to the changes being announced and offered an average of £3.1 million per month.

Wendy Williams is currently reviewing the Home Office’s progress in implementing the 30 recommendations set out in the Windrush Lessons Learned Review (WLLR) report, which includes the Windrush Compensation Scheme. We expect the design and operational decision making within the Compensation Scheme to be considered within this review and we will consider any further recommendations once received.

Recommendation 2 (paragraph 5, page 87)

The Home Office should provide more details of how it is identifying the assumptions underpinning its claim volume scenarios and how it is establishing its planning estimates in its response to this Report.

Government Response

The current planning assumption is that there are between 4,000 and 6,000 eligible claims, and this has been reached following comprehensive revisions to our scenario analysis. The scenario analysis uses operational, qualitative, and quantitative information from the Windrush Scheme and the Windrush Compensation Scheme as well as further insights from communications activity, outreach, and engagement with people affected. While estimating the number of affected people remains extremely challenging, we think that this revised planning assumption more accurately reflects the number of eligible claims.

The revision to our planning assumption does not change the department’s commitment to ensuring all affected members of the Windrush generation can make a claim and receive the maximum compensation to which they are entitled.

Recommendation 3 (paragraph 8, page 88)

In order to increase trust and encourage more applicants, we believe that the scheme should be transferred to an independent organisation.

Government Response

Transferring the Compensation Scheme to another organisation would not benefit applicants. Instead, this would result in more delays in issuing payments to people and would leave individuals worse off and facing greater hardship. Additional handoffs to other Government departments would be created adding further delay to decision making due to the time taken to identify a suitable organisation to deliver the Scheme, alongside the recruitment of decision makers and necessary training required.

As part of the consideration process input is required from the Home Office in establishing not only immigration status/eligibility, but also in gathering an individual’s immigration history, previous interactions with the department and any applications made within other immigration routes. This information can only be provided by the Home Office and would delay consideration and decision making further and have data protection and security implications if that data had to be shared with an external organisation. The Compensation Scheme continues to be subject to robust internal scrutiny and regular scrutiny from external stakeholders.

To ensure the Scheme has an appropriate level of external scrutiny, we have an independent review process with the Adjudicator’s Office and on 21 April 2021 the Home Office announced Professor Martin Levermore MBE DL as the new Independent Person to advise on the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

Recommendation 4 (paragraph 10, page 88)

Given the continued uncertainty around the number of eligible claimants and the fact that some eligible claimants currently lack the confidence, patience or trust in the Home Office to apply for a scheme administered by the Department, we strongly welcome the removal of the formal end date for the scheme. However, we implore the Home Office to be even more proactive in rebuilding trust with members of the Windrush community.

Government Response

We know we need to do more to rebuild trust in the Home Office amongst the Windrush community, and those impacted by the scandal. In addition to continuing to make progress with Compensation Scheme payments, we know that engagement and grassroots outreach is key to rebuilding this trust. Since 2018 we have been engaging with trusted community and faith leaders and running surgeries and events in the community to reach those affected. We have conducted nearly 120 one to one outreach events with individuals to help them apply to the free Windrush Scheme to obtain the documents they need to prove their right to live in the UK. Since April 2019, over 80 public engagement events have been held across the country open to all nationalities where a presentation is given to raise awareness of the eligibility and types of losses and impacts individuals can claim compensation for under the Windrush Compensation Scheme. None of the information shared at any of these events or with any Windrush team is ever shared with other departments in the Home Office and we reiterate this point in all our messaging in the hope that people will not be fearful to come forward to claim what they are entitled to.

Windrush ambassadors who are community leaders or individuals with connections to the impacted communities support the Home Office in sharing information and raising awareness of the Schemes, as do a network of over 100 Home Office Windrush volunteers who have connections with impacted communities as well.

The Home Office has been working closely and frequently with the Windrush Working Group since its inception in 2020, to build greater trust with affected communities. The Windrush Working Group made up of community leaders and representatives, has supported us in identifying better ways to communicate and present messages on topics including eligibility for the Compensation Scheme for overseas residents, increasing payment awards and not being fearful in coming forwards to ask for support. We are committed to continuing to do more to present information in a helpful way and identify how we need to reach communities and build trust.

In addition, over the past 12 months and through the Windrush Community Fund, we have engaged far more closely with grassroots and community organisations either affected by, or representing communities affected by Windrush. Engagement has become more regular and direct through regular dialogue to help us understand affected communities better and gain a deeper understanding of community feeling and how we can help.

Recommendation 5 (paragraph 12, page 89)

We welcome the recent publication of data on full and final offers. The Home Office should publish this data at least every six months; it should also publish data on the number of full and final impact on life payments made at each level of award.

Government Response

The Compensation Scheme publishes transparency data every month; this includes the number of full and final decisions, the number of offers, the number of payments and the size of WIP. That data is available at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/windrush-compensation-scheme-data-november-2021

The department is happy to take forward the request to provide the number of full and final impact on life payments made at each level of award and will provide an update.

Recommendation 6 (paragraph 15, page 89)

The Home Office should clarify how many of those 13,800 people were proactively contacted and offered support to apply for compensation as well. It should contact them again to ensure they have full information about the changes to the compensation scheme and the help available to apply.

Government Response

We have taken significant and ongoing steps to ensure that individuals who are issued with documentation under the Windrush Scheme are provided with the support they need to make a compensation claim. Our national communications campaign, launched in August 2020, is estimated to have reached over 12 million people, and encouraged people to contact the Windrush Help Team who provide individuals with support and information tailored to their circumstances.

The Windrush Help Team has significant experience of providing advice and support to potential claimants. They assist customers who are unsure of their eligibility to apply under the Scheme.

We are now in the process of writing to individuals who have been granted documentation under the Windrush Scheme, but who have not yet applied for compensation, in order to signpost them to the Compensation Scheme and encourage them to consider applying. The letter includes eligibility information and is accompanied by an information leaflet on the Compensation Scheme.

The first batch of 2,500 letters have now been sent and the remaining letters will be sent in the next two months.

Recommendation 7 (paragraph 16, page 89)

The Home Office should also explain clearly how it has considered and is seeking to mitigate any risks it identified when making the decision not to broaden the scope of its historical cases review, including but not limited to the risk of failing to identify non-Caribbean Commonwealth nationals who may have been wrongly detained and/or removed, or whose data may have been proactively shared with other government departments. The Home Office has stated that widening the scope of the historical cases review would take a ‘substantial number of caseworkers around two years to review at a significant cost’. Without being provided a precise estimate of what that cost would be, we cannot accept that as a reasonable justification for not widening the scope of the review as suggested by the Public Accounts Committee and by Wendy Williams in her Lessons Learned Review. The Home Office must share its estimate of the cost and caseworkers required.

Government Response

The Historical Cases Review was established to answer questions from Parliament as to the number of Windrush Generation individuals who had been removed or detained, or subject to compliant environment sanctions.

It was never intended to identify all people affected in all ways by Windrush issues. Indeed, there is no way to use Home Office data to do this.

The department published the results of the review in two letters to the Home Affairs Select Committee, the first in August 2018, and the second in June 2019.

In line with the then Home Secretary’s commitment to have the work of the review externally assured, PWC were brought in to do this and they concluded that the review was constructed correctly and that its operation was effective.

Extending the review to all nationalities would bring what is currently an unknown but large number of cases into scope, as such it is extremely difficult to give any reasonable estimate for the cost of such an exercise, as a very rough figure we would suggest in the tens of millions. Such an exercise would still not identify all people potentially eligible for the Compensation Scheme and as such is not an effective way to proceed.

The Historical Case Review saw staff undertake a manual check of cases, out of which only 221 were found to be potentially impacted. Of the 221, 55 were found to be potentially unfairly subject to compliant environment sanctions. This approach is costly, inefficient and ultimately unlikely to guarantee that we will be able to locate and reach those people. We have instead focussed efforts and resource into outreach and engagement.

To date we have spent approximately £1,192,979.00 on media campaigns, communication materials and outreach events. As a result of this we have had 18,516 applications to the Windrush Taskforce as of end Q2 2021, and 3,139 applications to the Windrush Compensation Scheme as of 31 October 2021. To raise awareness of both the department has conducted extensive outreach to reach the full spectrum of affected individuals and give them the help they need.

Recommendation 8 (paragraph 18, page 89)

As restrictions are lifted, planning and preparations must commence to ensure that the Department is ready to launch a new and extensive programme of face-to-face engagement events as soon as it is safe to do so.

Government Response

To date, the Home Office has hosted approximately 120 outreach surgeries and approximately 80 public engagement events, to raise awareness of the Windrush Schemes and support individuals. Due to government restrictions as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, these events have been moved on to a digital platform to ensure that we can continue to raise awareness of support and encourage individuals to apply to the Windrush Schemes. Although not all of the cohorts we are trying to reach may find this format of events accessible, it can be easier logistically for individuals to dial in from any region. The Home Office is keen to restart face-to-face engagement as soon as it is officially safe to do so.

The details of all public engagement events are published on GOV.UK and circulated to key stakeholders to reach wider audiences.

Recommendation 9 (paragraph 20, page 90)

The Home Office should look at more innovative ways of reaching communities, for instance video guides.

Government Response

We have sought to use a range of innovative approaches to reach communities, including:

  • In August 2020, we launched a national communications campaign, estimated to have reached 12 million people through radio, press and search advertising, and 3 million through grassroots channels. It saw an increase in awareness among the target communities from 67% to 81% and higher among some communities.
  • Advertising materials were developed in consultation with community stakeholders and tested with the members of the priority audience and included audio, social posts and print media, and a video guide on GOV.UK.
  • In addition to advertising, we worked with diaspora media partners (which achieved 1,500 pieces of coverage alone) including BEN TV, the Voice and ATN Bangla to develop bespoke content to resonate with each community.
  • Trusted community members were recruited as ‘ambassadors’ to raise awareness among their own networks. Their activity included video and music content shared on social media, online events and provision of information via food bank parcels.
  • We have also communicated through Home Office channels including developing a video case study featuring a compensation recipient.
  • We recently filmed new video guides on eligibility in multiple languages including Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi. When production is complete, these will be made available online and shared with partners.
  • The next phase of the campaign will include new video, audio and editorial content aimed at affected audiences. We will also be working with online communities who will share social media content such as podcasts, polls and social posts.
  • Through the Windrush Schemes Community Fund, we have funded organisations to promote awareness of the Windrush Schemes through a range of innovative and unique projects. Organisations’ projects include working with museums, through music and the arts, and videos and infomercials as a way to reach intergenerational audiences.

Recommendation 10 (paragraph 22, page 90)

The Home Office should bolster the support and funding available to grassroots campaigns and community groups tasked with raising awareness of the Windrush schemes, ensuring that those in which the community has confidence and which have expertise in this work are adequately supported. It should look to scale up its grassroots outreach work in the coming years, instead of ending the active phase of its communications and outreach programme in 2023.

Government Response

Since 2019, we have offered funding to grassroots organisations to cover their costs in partnering with us to run awareness-raising events. All information on eligibility for this is available at: Windrush: engagement events – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Over 200 public outreach and engagement events have been held across the country, and we continue to hold these events, mostly in partnership with local councils and community organisations.

The £500,000 Community Fund, which is aimed at supporting grassroots organisations to promote the Windrush Schemes, was launched as a priority as soon as an independent grant administrator could be secured, and relevant commercial matters dealt with. As well as overseeing the monthly monitoring and support sessions provided by the independent grant administrator, we have also bolstered our own support to community groups by sharing material and information helpful to the groups’ project delivery; continuing to engage with groups directly; and we have also arranged future sessions to continue in our support of community groups. Through our proactive engagement we are seeing our relationships with community groups improve as mutual understanding of our respective objectives grow. We hope to continue building on these relationships to enable us to work together on future projects beyond the lifetime of the Community Fund.

Details of the organisations funded under Phase 1 of the Community Fund can be found at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/windrush-community-fund-phase-1-projects/windrush-community-fund-phase-1-projects

We continue to look at new ways of working collaboratively with grassroots organisations and community groups, building on their knowledge, insights and trust of their communities, to provide the social interaction needed to raise awareness of the support available to progress applications through the Windrush Schemes, and encourage those who are eligible to come forward and apply.

Recommendation 11 (paragraph 23, page 90)

When individuals apply for the Windrush Compensation Scheme, the Department should collect data on how they heard about it. This would allow for proper evaluation of their outreach work and help decide where more resources should be targeted.

Government Response

The department currently collects this information in the Primary Claim Form and we are looking to include the collection of this data in the next update of all other claim forms.

Recommendation 12 (paragraph 24, page 90)

The Home Office must ensure that all communications about the Windrush schemes make clear that eligibility is not limited to the Caribbean Commonwealth, and that there is dedicated outreach and targeted communications for those from non-Caribbean Commonwealth countries. It should evaluate the community projects it is now funding in order to learn how best to ensure that its own outreach efforts are effective in reaching and engaging with all affected communities. The Government should also clarify how British High Commissions overseas are being supported to raise awareness of the Windrush schemes.

Government Response

We are committed to maximising our reach to both Caribbean and non-Caribbean communities. From the outset, we have held engagement events in partnership with key stakeholders and networks in both Caribbean and non-Caribbean communities. Most recently an event was held with the Birmingham Commonwealth Association whose strong links to academia, businesses, and individuals from across the Commonwealth help to increase our reach into impacted communities. As part of our work to look beyond the Caribbean, Home Office analysis has identified five priority countries wider than the Caribbean – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria that we are particularly keen to focus on and we are taking forward work with those communities.

In August 2020 we launched a national communications campaign targeting African, South Asian and Caribbean communities. Activity included recruitment of campaign ambassadors to reach individuals from across these target communities; and advertising and bespoke partnership activity in multiple languages with over 30 diaspora media outlets. The campaign reached over 12 million people and awareness of Government support on Windrush among African communities rose from 18% to 89%; and increased by 25% among South Asian communities to 78% (Omnibus survey, BMG/Britain Thinks, March/Dec 2020).

The next phase of activity is currently in development following insight research with participants from South Asian, African and Caribbean communities. The campaign will raise awareness of eligibility and tackle misconceptions about the Compensation Scheme, especially for South Asian and African communities who are less likely to be aware that they could apply. It will include tailored activity, such as video, radio and online community content, shared across diaspora media channels, and will be supported by trusted community voices.

We are also recontacting individuals from all communities who have been granted documentation under the Windrush Scheme but who have not yet applied for compensation to signpost them to the Compensation Scheme and urge them to consider applying. Our communications media continue to seek to reach and resonate with communities beyond the Caribbean, exemplified by a recent video case study featuring a compensation recipient who had arrived in the UK from Ghana as a child.

New communication materials, including a partner pack which contains materials and adverts that can be used by others, feature diverse photography and will be translated into a range of languages. As well as engaging UK partners, we are working with British High Commissions overseas to support them in using the materials across local channels and raise awareness of the Compensation Scheme among their networks who can signpost support.

These materials can be found at:

UK Partner Pack

Overseas Partner Pack

We have engaged with High Commissions of priority countries, including the Caribbean countries, and offered bespoke staff awareness sessions on the Schemes so officials can use their networks to reach impacted communities and encourage individuals to apply to the Schemes, particularly those who may now live overseas.

We have also delivered a staff awareness session to officials in India, and a further session has been organised and advertised for officials in other countries, including Pakistan.

We are conscious of the need to ensure that our outreach activity remains as effective as possible, and all outreach projects supported through the Community Fund will be evaluated once project delivery is completed. We have appointed an independent grant administrator to formally and independently evaluate projects to assess whether and to what extent they have met Community Fund objectives, and to assess their impact on affected communities. In addition, once the Community Fund is closed, around Summer 2023, we will begin our own evaluation of the Community Fund to assess and evaluate its effectiveness in engaging with communities and promoting awareness of the Scheme.

Recommendation 13 (paragraph 27, page 91)

The Home Office must build on the work of the NAO and undertake a comprehensive analysis of its current workflow system to identify precisely where and why bottlenecks, backward steps, inefficient processes and slow decisions are occurring. It must interrogate these findings rigorously and be prepared to act swiftly and boldly to address causes of delay, including updates to caseworker training and guidance and, where necessary, the scheme rules.

Government Response

All processes are consistently reviewed and improvements made where they are needed. We continue to work smarter and more efficiently. A Continuous Improvement culture is being embedded and deployed within the operational process from the bottom up and the unit is committed to UKVI’s initiative to deliver Operational Excellence in all that we do.

Recommendation 14 (paragraph 28, page 91)

The Department must act urgently to improve its performance management information and clarify its casework capacity and staffing needs, ensuring that casework capacity is expanded as quickly as possible. The Department should share its findings and the actions it is taking to address them with this Committee. It should provide an initial response within two months of the publication of this report and further updates after four months and six months.

Government Response

We are rapidly expanding the size of the Compensation Scheme team in order to increase casework capacity and ensure that claims can be processed as quickly as possible. The team has already increased in size to include 80 caseworkers, with a further 24 due to join the Compensation Scheme over the course of January. We are also in the process of undertaking an external recruitment exercise that will allow us to reach a total of 120 caseworkers. We have onboarded new staff quickly, maintaining the high level of training required to ensure they thoroughly understand the complexities of the Scheme and the importance of the work they are undertaking. We are happy to provide further updates on our progress as the casework team grows in size.

Recommendation 15 (paragraph 29, page 91)

The Home Office should clarify what progress it made on processing cases submitted prior to 14 December 2020 between 14 December 2020 and 31 March 2021; additionally, going forwards, the scheme data it publishes monthly should include: the number of offers made; whether offers are interim, preliminary or final, and the number of claims that have been in the scheme for a) 6-12 months, b) 12 to 18 months, c) 18 to 24 months and d) longer than 24 months.

Government Response

Up until 1 January 2020 we received 1775 applications and as of October 31,2021, we have given a full and final offer (or a response to confirm an individual is not entitled to an award) to 71% (1269) of the claims received.

The department has changed the monthly transparency data publication to include more detail, including the number and value of offers made, as well as the age of the cases broken down into categories 1-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-9 Months, 9-12 Months, 12-18 Months and over 18 Months. The published data can be found here:

assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1036997/Windrush_Compensation_Scheme_Data__-_October_2021_V2.ods

Recommendation 16 (paragraph 31, page 92)

The Home Office should provide the preliminary £10,000 impact on life award to all those the Department has previously acknowledged were wrongly subjected to immigration enforcement measures or were wrongly denied proof of their lawful status as a result of the Windrush scandal.

The award should be issued irrespective of whether the claimant can evidence harm or financial losses caused by the Home Office’s failure to ensure that individuals could demonstrate their lawful status; it should be made in recognition of the Department’s appalling treatment of the Windrush generation when it lost sight of this cohort and in recognition of the fact that many of those affected are part of an ageing generation that has contributed heavily to this country, but that cannot wait many years for compensation to be calculated. The £10,000 should be paid within two months and any further calculated compensation entitlement must follow.

Government Response

The Windrush Compensation Scheme is open for applications to anyone who feels they have been wrongly treated and suffered losses due to an inability to prove status, where it is clear that the Home Office has wrongly enacted an immigration enforcement action we will process and offer preliminary payments of £10,000.

We are unable to directly identify or make any assessment on eligibility of those individuals who have not made contact with us via the Windrush Help Team, or through network events or outreach activity.

Recommendation 17 (paragraph 33, page 92)

The changes made to the scheme in December do not go far enough to address the delays and the unreasonable demands for evidence which claimants are facing.

Government Response

The changes that we made in December 2020 have been instrumental in ensuring that people received more compensation more quickly:

  • We raised the minimum award under the Impact on Life category to £10,000, 40 times the previous minimum award under this category.
  • This is now paid as a new early preliminary payment as soon as someone applying on their own behalf, or on behalf of someone who has sadly passed away, can show any impact on their life under the terms of the Scheme. They don’t have to wait for their whole application to be assessed.
  • We increased the value of compensation under the Impact on Life category at every level, with the maximum award increasing from £10,000 to £100,000 (with options for even higher awards in exceptional circumstances).
  • We overhauled the Loss of Access to Employment category, including removing the 12-month cap on payments in all circumstances.

These changes have had an immediate and significant impact on the speed and amount of compensation being offered. Within six weeks of making these changes we had offered more for Impact on Life than we had in the first 19 months of the Scheme. Since the end of December 2020, we have offered more in compensation than in the first 19 months of the Scheme rising £6.17 million to more than £12 million at the end of January 2021. We have also paid more than ten times the total amount paid before the December 2020 changes were made.

We continue to make improvements to the Scheme, including simplifying the application process, hiring more caseworkers and removing the Scheme’s end date to ensure no one is prevented from making a claim if they are eligible.

We have published refreshed caseworker guidance which sets out clearly how caseworkers should apply the balance of probabilities and go about gathering evidence, with the aim of reducing the time taken to process claims and improving peoples’ experiences of applying to the Scheme.

We have also brought in new support measures for those claiming on behalf of relatives who have passed away.

And for those who need more support in applying, we have funded an organisation (We Are Digital) to provide free, independent claimant assistance to individuals.

Recommendation 18 (paragraph 35, page 92)

The Home Office should monitor the impact of its package of support carefully to ensure that it is meeting the needs of people who are claiming on behalf of an estate.

Government Response

We have launched a package of support to help those making, or who have already made, claims on behalf of a relative who has passed away to submit an application to the Probate Services to obtain the legal documentation required to process their claim.

We will reimburse the probate application fee (if there is one) and up to £1,500 towards legal advice sought to apply for probate, subject to certain conditions.

We have set up effective mechanisms with We Are Digital and the Probate Office to monitor and where necessary resolve, any concerns regarding the impact of the package of support.

We continue to listen and respond to feedback received from stakeholders to ensure the package of support is operating effectively.

Recommendation 19 (paragraph 36, page 92)

Claimants facing long delays deserve to know where their claim is in the process and to understand what progress has been and is currently being made on their claim. Updates should be substantive, and all communications must maximise opportunities to make further progress.

Government Response

We are currently reviewing the customer contact strategy and are considering feedback received from stakeholders and individuals.

Recommendation 20 (paragraph 38, Page 93)

Reissuing the claim form guidance in plain English is a welcome first step in improving the application process, but the Department must continually be aware that the demands of this form may still represent a significant challenge to this cohort, many of whom may be vulnerable. As we were told by Garden Court Chambers, “plain language does not always equate to ease of access”. The Home Office must also address the adequacy of support available to claimants in completing their application.

Government Response

We have listened to stakeholder feedback and introduced a direct referral to We are Digital as part of the claimant assistance support offer.

We have set up effective mechanisms with We Are Digital to monitor and quality assure the claims that they submit. We also receive ongoing customer feedback from We Are Digital and continue to listen and respond to feedback received from stakeholders to ensure the support is operating effectively.

Recommendation 21 (paragraph 41, page 93)

We urge the Home Office to enable We Are Digital to book as many additional support sessions for claimants as are needed and to monitor feedback from claimants carefully to ensure any gaps in support are identified. We believe that the service provided by We Are Digital should complement rather than replace specialist legal support.

Government Response

We Are Digital are encouraged to offer additional sessions beyond the 3-hour appointment time subject to the claimants needs. They are also encouraged to use their time with the claimants in the best interest of the claimant, for example chunking up the time into shorter slots should claimants require a break or find the discussion particularly distressing.

The process to increase the appointment time is a referral to the Windrush Compensation Team. The referral is not to approve or reject the additional time but to ensure that payment is audited.

We quality assure the claimant assistance support and also receive customer feedback from our claim assistance provider. This feedback enables us to ensure any gaps in support are identified.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme is open to all and has been designed to be as clear and simple as possible, so people do not need legal assistance to make a claim.

Recommendation 22 (paragraph 43, page 93)

We do not believe that the limited service provided by We Are Digital is sufficient to obviate the need for specialist legal advice. We therefore urge the Home Office to introduce new arrangements to ensure that everyone who wishes to access legal assistance with their claim is able to do so. The Home Office should consider the following options as part of its review:

  • Extending the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to include work done under the Windrush Compensation Scheme and waiving means testing for this work;
  • Establishing an approved panel of legal firms and professionals, with a funding scheme to provide payment for their services to claimants.
  • Agreeing a tariff payment for legal costs to be reimbursed to claimants. The payment should reflect the level of support the claimant required, for example whether they requested a review;
  • Establishing and maintaining a dedicated fund for organisations to provide free legal assistance to claimants.

Government Response

The Compensation Scheme has been designed to be accessible to anyone without the need for legal assistance in order to fill in the claim form and receive compensation. Caseworkers phone claimants to gather extra information when needed and send letters to claimants at each stage of the process, these letters have been crystal marked to ensure they are clear. The vast majority of claims that have been concluded have seen claimants receive compensation without any involvement of legal professionals. We are continuously evaluating how we can better help claimants through the process of their claim and are working with We Are Digital to ensure their service is clearly signposted and accessible.

Recommendation 23 (paragraph 46, page 94)

We are not yet convinced that the Home Office has done enough to embed a light touch approach to evidence: for example, we note that the revised caseworker guidance provides no detail as to what the changes made to the standard of proof in October 2020 mean in practice. We urge Ministers and senior officials to examine a sample of individual cases to understand how the ‘on the balance of probabilities’ standard of proof is being applied and to establish what further training and guidance is needed to ensure a fair and empathetic approach to the use of evidence. While it is encouraging that the Home Office has launched the new Ethical Decision-making Model, in its response to this report the Department must clarify how it intends to embed and monitor the performance of the new model within the compensation team. The Department should provide regular updates to this Committee on issues raised by decision-makers and how these are being resolved.

Government Response

Changes made regarding standard of proof have been embedded across the case working operation. This has been delivered through workshops between operational and policy colleagues where case studies are considered and the approach discussed. This is designed to build capability amongst staff and ensure consistency in the decision making process. It also forms the basis of training for new staff members.

Feedback is given to case workers by the Quality Assurance Team. This team hold regular case conferences to discuss issues, themes and analyse any trends that have been identified. The aim is to ensure the highest possible award can be given to the customer.

Where a case worker feels that there is any inconsistency in the advice given, an independent escalation process has been put in place to resolve issues.

Our Tier 1 reviewers provide feedback directly to both case workers and quality assurance team members. A review forum for both Tier 1 and 2 cases is also held, so lessons can be learned on recommendations made, and any errors can be addressed. Tier 2 review by the Adjudicator’s Office which is independent from the Home Office already follows the Ethical Decision-making Model.

Recommendation 24 (paragraph 47, page 94)

Given the concerns about the Department’s understanding of the eligible cohort and the difficulties with obtaining documentary evidence, in the interest of transparency we further recommend that the Home Office urgently publishes its equalities impact assessment for the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

Government Response

We intend to publish the Scheme’s overall Equality Impact Assessment in the new year once it has been updated to reflect the assessments that have been carried out for all of the recent changes to the Scheme.

Recommendation 25 (paragraph 49, page 95)

The Home Office must provide greater clarity about how impact on life awards are determined and should issue clear guidance on how different types of impact and levels of harm correspond to each tariff level.

Government Response

The ‘Impact on Life’ category is specifically designed to cover the non-financial impacts individuals may have faced as a result of being unable to demonstrate their lawful status, including a deterioration in physical or mental health.

This category is awarded in a series of levels with payments ranging from £10,000 for detriment where the effect on an individual was short-lived, and up to £100,000 plus where the effect on an individual was profound and likely to be irreversible.

Under the changes we made to the Scheme in December, those eligible under the terms of the Scheme will receive a minimum Impact on Life payment of £10,000.

Compensation under this category is awarded in a series of 5 levels recognising increasing duration and severity of impacts.

Casework guidance is publicly available which defines how Impact on Life awards are considered:

Windrush Compensation Scheme (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Recommendation 26 (paragraph 50, page 95)

Given that the Home Office has yet to use its capacity to seek expert medical advice to support determinations on these complex awards, it should be open to claimants to be able to request expert medical advice if they are seeking a higher level award and in particular as part of the review process if they dispute their level of award.

Government Response

We do use medical evidence to support the decision-making process. This is information obtained by us on the applicant’s behalf and by them to support their applications. We do not routinely seek to obtain expert medical advice to support determinations on complex awards as generally this would not increase the amount awarded and delay offers.

We are mindful that some people did not inform their GP about status issues, and some people didn’t visit their GP at all whilst they were attempting to resolve their status issues. With that in mind, we assess the appropriateness of attempting to obtain further information.

We are committed to setting out a process whereby customers can obtain expert medical evidence on their own behalf where appropriate.

Recommendation 27 (paragraph 52, page 95)

We recognise that it might be possible to reflect better the losses incurred by some individuals by looking at pay levels in the sector they worked in, regardless of the direct evidence of the wages they can provide. The Government should consider this as an option in individual cases. However, given that this will not apply for many individuals, and given the risk of further delays, we recommend increasing the general award to at least next year’s National Living Wage of £9.50 per hour given that most people have still not yet received their payments and the 2019 minimum wage is an arbitrary figure to choose. Based on an average full-time working week of 37 hours, this would raise the general award to £18,278 per year, or £1,523.16 per month. Going forwards, the tariff used should be based on at least the National Living Wage being used when the payment is made. Loss of pension and loss of future earnings should be brought within scope of the scheme: a set award or general tariff would ensure all eligible individuals are compensated regardless of available evidence. The complexity of this issue should not preclude the Home Office from implementing a solution: at the very least, the Department should consider the legal minimum employer pension contribution, which is currently three per cent.

Government Response

How compensation is calculated for losses in employment has been very carefully considered to be as generous and simple as is reasonably possible. We have designed the loss of access to employment category to allow us to better acknowledge, and therefore compensate individuals for the situations and circumstances they have found themselves in.

Changing the tariff to align with a changing National Living Wage would be a disadvantage to those whose compensation claims are resolved more quickly so it is important to have one constant tariff. We have pegged the tariff to the 2017 National Living Wage because most losses that may have occurred due to an inability to prove status have occurred prior to 2017 and for any losses following 2017 it is much more likely to be able to find documentation which can provide an accurate compensation amount. Across all categories our aim is to provide compensation in a way that is not complicated for our claimants or requiring and excessive amount of evidence which would delay the conclusion of a claim.

The Scheme excludes impacts or losses related to occupational pensions.

Where a claim is accepted under loss of access to employment or benefits, the Government will seek to ensure that the individual’s National Insurance position is corrected so the period of the loss does not impact their State Pension entitlement.

Arrangements for this complex area, building on experiences from the Compensation Scheme so far, are being finalised across Government.

Recommendation 28 (paragraph 53, page 95)

Across all categories of claim, caseworkers must consider holistically the situation the claimant was in: where an eligible claimant was unable to demonstrate their right to live, work and access services in the UK, compensation should not be declined solely on the basis that they are unable to document a causal link between their inability to evidence their lawful status and the loss they have suffered.

Government Response

Caseworkers are trained to approach all claims holistically. A caseworker will look at all the available information. We appreciate that documentation is not always easy to obtain, particularly in relation to events that happened historically. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to provide what they can, which could, for example, be an impact statement, or information provided via friends and family. Compensation is not declined solely based on a lack of documentation.

Recommendation 29 (paragraph 55, page 96)

Claimants should be entitled to receive compensation for any immigration application they made whilst seeking documentation to prove their lawful status.

Government Response

We are reviewing our approach to any payments made by claimants seeking to prove their lawful status through the submission of charged immigration applications.

Recommendation 30 (paragraph 56, page 96)

The Home Office should review its decision not to refund any claimants for past fees paid for successful citizenship and Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Government Response

Please see response to recommendation 29

Recommendation 31 (paragraph 58, page 96)

The scheme rules should be amended so as to remove the £500 per application limit on compensation for past legal fees that were needed and paid because of the Windrush scandal.

Government Response

For each immigration application that is compensated, for example Indefinite Leave to Remain, legal fees will be compensated up to a value of £500.

This is because the immigration system has been designed to make sure people do not require legal assistance to make an application for an immigration product.

Recommendation 32 (paragraph 60, page 96)

The Home Office should clarify that awards under the category of claim for homelessness are available to individuals who lived with family and friends whilst they were unable to access housing or because their financial situation meant they lost their home.

Government Response

We are reviewing our definition of Homelessness. Currently a claimant is not precluded from being awarded under this category if staying with family and friends.

Recommendation 33 (paragraph 62, page 96)

The Home Office should clarify the basis upon which it drafted the rules and guidance on the discretionary award.

Government Response

The Scheme is designed to cover as many aspects as possible of a person’s life that are likely to have been affected by an inability to demonstrate status. We introduced a discretionary category to cover such instances where there is evidence that a financial loss incurred which is not captured within the other existing categories of claim. This will be reviewed, and we will provide updates.

Recommendation 34 (paragraph 64, page 97)

The Home Office should be more transparent about the types of loss it is prepared to compensate through a discretionary award and should set out what types of claim under this category have previously been accepted. The Home Office should also provide assurances as to how consistency in decision-making is maintained both within this category and across the compensation scheme.

Government Response

Policy and Operational teams are working together, looking closely at the Discretionary category. Regarding consistency, any proposal to award in this category is discussed and signed off by a technical specialist.

Previous awards in this category have been in respect of travel costs (both internationally and within the UK), medical invoices (submitted as part of an application to the HO), and the reimbursement monies paid in respect of legal advice.

Recommendation 35 (paragraph 66, page 97)

We call on the Home Office to conduct an analysis of all discretionary claims received to date to establish the types of loss people are claiming for. The Department must provide its findings to this Committee within two months of publication of this report and explain how it will address them.

Government Response

We have committed to keeping all categories within the Scheme under review. Feedback from our quality assurance processes alongside that received from our Tier 1 and Tier 2 reviews ensure we have real time insight enabling us to identify trends in decision making and any elements of the Schemes’ policy which require additional scrutiny and review.

Recommendation 36 (paragraph 67, page 97)

We call on the Home Office to explain how awards across all categories of claim are determined for individuals who were unable to return to the UK, including those unable to return for multiple decades, and to introduce a tariff payment specifically to compensate individuals who were unable to return to the UK.

Government Response

The basis for deciding awards under each category of the Scheme is set out in the Compensation Scheme rules and in the accompanying casework guidance. The published rules and guidance are applied to all cases; there is not a separate set of rules and guidance covering cases where an individual was wrongly prevented from returning to the UK.

Individuals who were wrongly prevented from returning to the UK may claim compensation, and we have paid compensation to individuals on this basis. Where an individual was wrongly prevented from returning to the UK, they will be entitled to an award under the Impact on Life category which reflects the severity of the impact that may have had on their life. There may also be an entitlement to compensation under the various other categories, however this will depend on the circumstances of each individual case.

Recommendation 37 (paragraph 70, page 98)

We believe that rules on mitigation of loss are not appropriate for a compensation scheme of this nature: the Home Office should lift any remaining mitigation requirements.

Government Response

We continue to listen and respond to feedback received from stakeholders to ensure the Scheme is operating effectively for people including on rules on mitigation of loss. These rules will be reviewed

Recommendation 38 (paragraph 71, page 98)

Given the concerns raised by the independent adviser on the design of the Windrush Compensation Scheme, as well as the risks of costly legal challenges, we recommend that future decisions on whether to reduce or decline an award because of previous criminality should be independently reviewed. This should be done by referring the decision to the independent review panel we recommend should be established in paragraph 273 of this Report.

Government Response

In most instances, criminality will not affect an individual’s compensation.

However, we have a duty to consider whether it is appropriate to make payment from the public purse to people whose severe criminal behaviour has negatively impacted the lives of victims and wider society.

Where individuals have received sentences of imprisonment of four years or longer for offences such as murder, rape or sex/sexual offences with a minor, any award for Impact on Life will likely be declined.

Where this is the case, we will consider whether there are circumstances since the individual’s release from prison which mean a reduction in their award for Impact on Life may be more appropriate, rather than declining it, e.g., community or charity work.

A precedent for the modification of compensation where an individual has unspent criminal convictions exists in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

All decisions to withhold or reduce compensation are signed off by Ministers.

Recommendation 39 (paragraph 72, page 98)

The Home Office must ensure that apologies to those affected by the Windrush scandal are issued at the earliest opportunity and that the Department’s role in causing any impacts or losses suffered is fully acknowledged.

Government Response

The Home Secretary has apologised unreservedly to victims and their families for the injustice, hardship and suffering they endured at the hands of successive governments over several decades.

We are working tirelessly to ensure members of the Windrush generation are properly compensated for the losses and impacts they suffered.

Everyone who receives an offer of compensation from the Department receives a personal letter of apology from the Home Secretary at the conclusion of their compensation claim.

Recommendation 40 (paragraph 73, Page 98)

The commitment to holding reconciliation events is a particularly important one and must not get lost. In its response to this Report, the Home Office should clarify what progress it has made on implementing a programme of reconciliation events with members of the Windrush generation, including what work has taken place to identify follow-up support in addition to financial compensation.

Government Response

We are committed to delivering on this recommendation, building on our existing outreach and community building and ensuring that the design and implementation of the work meets the objective they set out to achieve, to support affected communities and rebuild trust with the Home Office. This is a particularly sensitive recommendation which requires careful consideration as individuals could find it traumatic to recount the impacts or losses they suffered due to their inability to prove status. We have had continuing dialogue with stakeholders and engaged with expert facilitators to ensure that our work is designed sensitively and effectively.

Recommendation 41 (paragraph 75, page 98)

The Home Office and consecutive Home Secretaries have acknowledged and apologised for the losses faced by the Windrush generation as a result of failings within the Department, yet that acceptance has not translated into quick and adequate compensation, even where individuals are facing urgent or exceptional hardship. In order to rectify this, the Home Office should reduce the bureaucratic burden placed on applicants for urgent and exceptional support, in recognition of the fact that a prohibitively high standard of proof and limited interpretation of ‘urgent’ and ‘exceptional’ hardship will result in delays and rejections for those in desperate situations through no fault of their own. Caseworkers should be directed to take a broader, more sympathetic approach when interpreting whether circumstances are urgent or exceptional, with particular attention paid to those struggling with debts and arrears they have accrued because of their inability to demonstrate their lawful status.

Government Response

The circumstances of individuals’ compensation claim may be complex, and it is important that time is taken in order to consider these carefully and ensure that a correct decision is ultimately reached. We do, however, continue to maintain a separate process by which individuals in urgent need may request (and receive) financial support on a rapid basis. Where an individual is eligible for the Compensation Scheme and believes that they require urgent financial support, they may contact the Windrush Help Team in order to request this. All requests for support are considered in line with our policy on Urgent and Exceptional Payments, which is available on GOV.UK.

When considering a request, it is important that we do understand an individual’s circumstances and the reasons why they are applying for support. Our dedicated Vulnerable Persons Team works with individuals in order to establish whether there is a need for urgent financial support.

This process is light-touch and entirely separate to the consideration of compensation claims. Some requests which are initially financial can often be resolved with support from the Vulnerable Persons Team, for example signposting a claimant to debt management, assisting with contacting the DWP benefits team or liaising with the housing providers to halt an eviction so that a payment schedule can be arranged. Urgent and exceptional payments have in the past been used to support with costs such as essential furniture, clothing, flights or debt management.

There will be circumstances where additional information is required, and we will support further training for our caseworkers and the Help Team to ensure that it is clear to the claimant that by providing as much information as possible at the time of making contact, it will allow us to provide appropriate support as quickly as possible.

Recommendation 42 (paragraph 76, page 99)

The Department should also raise the standard payment cap of £5,000 to ensure that those who are in urgent need of greater financial support, or those who face multiple simultaneous financial challenges, are provided with adequate emergency funds to alleviate their hardship. It should ensure applicants receive a decision within ten days.

Government Response

The policy on Urgent and Exceptional Payments does not have a cap; while the policy states that payments will not normally exceed £5000, any decision is always based on what is needed in each individual case. Where there are instances where it is appropriate to pay more than £5000, we have and will continue to do so.

We continue to inform individuals of our decision as soon as possible. However, there are occasions where follow-up contact and further information is required in order to establish why a person requires urgent support. The published policy on Urgent and Exceptional Payments provides detailed guidance to individuals on what information they may wish to share at the point of making a request, in order to help our team to make a decision more quickly.

Recommendation 43 (paragraph 78, page 99)

The ‘Windrush scheme: support in urgent and exceptional circumstances’ guidance should be amended immediately to make clear that urgent and exceptional payments can be recovered in full from a subsequent offer of compensation; caseworkers should receive training to ensure that this is also made sufficiently clear in any direct communications with individuals.

Government Response

The policy on Urgent and Exceptional Payments is available on GOV.UK and is also sent to claimants that enquire about the Compensation Scheme. The current version of the policy was published on 23 February 2021 and advises that any payments or assistance provided under this policy may be taken into account in any subsequent award made under the Compensation Scheme. The Home Office has always been clear that the purpose of this policy is to provide for exceptional payments to be made where a person is experiencing an urgent need that cannot wait for the completion of their compensation claim. Urgent and Exceptional Payments are, in essence, intended to act as an exceptional advance on future compensation.

The standard wording of Urgent and Exceptional Payment decision letters was updated on 16 March 2021, in order to reflect the revisions made to the policy. Decision letters include a line which specifically states that payments may be deducted from any future compensation award.

We intend to remind the Help Team and caseworkers to ensure that individuals who request urgent support are advised of this at the point that they discuss their urgent need with the team.

Recommendation 44 (paragraph 80, page 99)

We are disappointed that the Home Office has yet to resume routine publication of data relating to the support in urgent and exceptional circumstances policy and the work of the Vulnerable Persons Team. This information must be published regularly. We also recommend that adequate feedback processes are put in place to ensure a good quality of service is provided by the Vulnerable Persons Team. We call on the Home Secretary and the Permanent Secretary to review the operation of the Vulnerable Persons Team, including the guidance they follow and the sensitivity of the support offered. We also call on Wendy Williams to look at the team as part of her review.

Government Response

We are working with our data colleagues to ensure that Urgent and Exceptional Payment and Vulnerable Persons Team data is published.

We receive occasional feedback from customers about the service received from the Vulnerable Persons Team and will consider how we can formalise and capture feedback without causing additional stress or anxiety to our customers.

We will consider whether the work of the team and the support that can be offered should be more clearly articulated so that customers understand the reach and influence of the team.

Recommendation 45 (paragraph 81, page 99)

Given the significance of the Windrush Compensation Scheme in righting the wrongs done by the Home Office, and the importance of getting the scheme right, we cannot understand why the Home Office has designed a system which does not allow senior civil servants, Ministers or this Committee to monitor the outcome of reviews of compensation offers. This should be an important management tool as well as being important for accountability. We welcome the provision of this information to us on our second request; it should however be published regularly as part of the wider Windrush Compensation Scheme transparency data. In its response to this Report, the Home Office should clarify how it is monitoring the outcome of reviews and sharing any lessons learned.

Government Response

The outcomes of reviews are regularly monitored to enable us to learn from them and where required, change our policy guidance or implementation.

Within their last report, the Adjudicator Officer published the number of Tier 2 reviews they had considered and if the decision was upheld or not upheld on the basis of their recommendation. To date we have been asked to review six decisions and have accepted and followed the recommendation on three of these. The remaining three are currently under review and are being reconsidered. We commit to reporting on the outcomes of both Tier 1 and Tier 2 reviews to the Independent Advisor. In addition, outcomes are shared with senior civil servants and the WCS Oversight Board.

Recommendation 46 (paragraph 83, page 100)

We call on the Home Office to establish a demonstrably independent single-stage review process in which claimants have greater confidence, such as a judge-led panel. The Home Office should accept and implement decisions of the independent review. Where an initial decision is amended, the Home Office should gather feedback on the initial decision-making process to share with caseworkers and, where appropriate, use this feedback to inform and update caseworker training and guidance to improve the quality of initial decision-making. All claimants should have the right to access the new review process irrespective of whether their claim has concluded or is ongoing. This approach would be consistent with the retrospective application of changes which have been made to the scheme previously.

Government Response

We have a two-stage independent review process for claims. Tier 1 reviews are conducted by dedicated staff who will not have played any role in assessing the claim prior to the review. If a claimant wishes to contest the outcome of this review, they may request a Tier 2 review which is conducted by the Adjudicator’s Office. Recommendations to us from the Adjudicator’s Office are normally accepted and implemented. Should it arise that we disagree we would inform the Oversight Board which oversees the Scheme and includes the Independent Adviser to the Scheme – Martin Levermore.

Recommendation 47 (paragraph 85, page 100)

The Home Office should work to establish an estimated timescale for reviews which can be shared with claimants. Wherever possible, claimants should receive preliminary or interim payments; such payments should not affect a claimant’s right to seek a review of their full and final offer.

Government Response

If an individual is dissatisfied with the outcome of their compensation claim, they can ask the Home Office to review its decision. This will be an internal independent review by someone who has not been involved in the consideration of an individual’s case.

If an individual remains dissatisfied, they can then request an external independent review outside of the Home Office. Their claim will be looked at by the Adjudicator’s Office.

The Adjudicator’s Office is a separate organisation, independent of the Home Office who can look at, among other things, whether the department has followed its policies, and the use of discretion by the Windrush Compensation Team.

The preliminary payment is payable to those who meet the criteria at level 1 of the Impact on Life scale. Close family members have always had to reach level 2 on the Impact on Life scale to receive a payment under the Scheme.

It is very difficult to provide timescales on reviews, given the varying nature of the claims and their complexities. What we can say is that Tier 1 will work to resolve cases at pace, liaising with the customers regarding expectation on decision delivery.