Windrush Compensation Scheme – Addressing misleading media coverage by Martin Forde QC

In May 2018, I was appointed the Independent Adviser to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, as the Home Office recognised that independent oversight was imperative if the Scheme were to have any credibility.

Following a call for evidence, I carried out comprehensive consultations and visited affected communities throughout the country, to find out for myself how those affected had been unfairly treated and had been suffering in silence for years. I then looked at the common themes affecting these communities, and used the information I’d gathered to help design a scheme that would address all the issues.

The Scheme is comprehensive. It allows claims for deportation and removal, detention, loss of employment; loss of housing; loss of certain benefits; refunds of unnecessarily incurred fees paid in pursuit of immigration status; loss of access to services, such as banking, the NHS; loss of driving licences and university access, and impact on life, such as missed family occasions due to travel restrictions being imposed. There is also a wide discretion to compensate for novel or unusual claims.

Hybrid claims spanning multiple types of loss are also catered for. So, for example, a person who was detained and then deported would have a claim for both those actions, as well as any financial loss caused, due to loss of employment, benefits or housing. This would also include claims for the impact on family life. Because the politicians stated publicly that people would be compensated for “distress and anxiety”, I looked at and incorporated bands of claims, which were very much based upon claims made for psychological or psychiatric damage in the Courts. Close family members, who may have suffered financial loss supporting primary claimants and emotional impact themselves, are able to make claims under the Scheme. Finally, where claimants are unfortunately deceased, claims can be inherited.

Disappointingly, the Scheme has been thoroughly misrepresented by ill informed media comments from those who clearly haven’t read or understood the Scheme. This includes politicians who, rather than encouraging claimants or contributing valid constructive criticism (which, if justified, would have led to the Scheme being modified), unfortunately seem more interested in politicising this tragedy. My concern is that unjustified and inaccurate criticism is dissuading claimants from coming forward, or is driving them into the arms of rapacious ‘No win, no fee’ lawyers.

The overall cost of the scheme is not capped at £200 million (see The Andrew Marr Show 14th April 2019 with David Lammy). There is no overall cap; it will cost the Home Office what it costs! Neither has £200m been set aside for the Scheme, as one solicitor’s website claims. A claimant does not only receive £10,000 for wrongful deportation (Mr Lammy again). Both these statements are wildly inaccurate, but have received huge media coverage.

I am therefore delighted to have been given the opportunity to correct this misleading media coverage. I have asked various media organisations for a right of reply, but have been thwarted at every attempt.

All claims are bespoke, and will compensate for an individual’s personal circumstances. Where there are bands or tariffs, these will mirror Court awards and settlements or existing schemes, such as local government awards for loss of housing and Judicial College guidelines for the award of damages in personal injury claims.

There are two stages of review against awards adjudged by claimants to be wrongly calculated.

The Scheme is fair, accessible and comprehensive. It is under constant review, and I welcome constructive, accurate and fair criticism. My attention now turns to the just implementation of the Scheme and, in particular, supporting those who wish to make claims to ensure they are properly and fully compensated.

Of course, a degree of supportive documentation will be needed to support claims, just as it would be if a court case were pursued for damages. I have asked the Home Office to approach this with a ‘light touch’, however, as putting the onus on the community affected to produce documents is what caused their scandalous treatment in the first place.

My aim is to ensure, so far as I am able, that the Home Office pay fair compensation to those affected as soon as possible, and I am determined that those who need and deserve this compensation receive it. The Windrush Task Force has already helped around 900 people to claim benefits – in many cases backdated – and some have received five figure sums. Some of these payments are outside of the Scheme, but were instigated by the Home Office bringing such cases to the attention of the Department of Work and Pensions.

The claim forms and guidance notes are on the GOV.UK website – simply type ‘Windrush Compensation’ into any search engine, or visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/windrush-compensation-scheme.

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