On 6th May 2020 the House of Lords debated a Government motion to take note of the Windrush Compensation Scheme. The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I thank the Minister for allowing this virtual debate. Almost two years ago, the Windrush scandal astounded this country. The hostile environment policy operated by the Home Office was shown to be discriminatory and damaging. It had neglected a critical principle that is foundational to my Christian faith: human dignity.
Process must support people. This needs to apply not only to our migration policy and departments, as clearly set out in the lessons learned review, but to the way we do what we have committed to do, such as the Windrush compensation scheme. From that standpoint, we need to evaluate how accessible the scheme is to those who are trying to rightfully claim underneath it, and that it is a process that honours their human dignity.
However, there are clearly indications that this is not presently the case. The Windrush compensation scheme was launched 12 months ago. Since then, figures show that only 35 people have been granted urgent and exceptional support payments totalling £46,795. The scheme is expected to pay out between £20 million and £30 million—in other words, the compensation offered thus far does not seem to reflect the scale of the scandal. Many victims have been adversely affected for years—for decades—suffering ill health, homelessness and mounting debt. Some, sadly, have passed way as a result of the scandal.
Not only does the speed at which the compensation is distributed not seem to honour the dignity of those affected but there is also the issue of accessibility. The compensation scheme application process should be reduced from its 18-page document, for which external help is so often required. It needs to create an easy, accessible document for survivors and community organisations. This would simply be in line with the best practice under the Equality Act.
Lastly, I highlight the fact that there is a significant lack of trust in the scheme, because the department that has been accusing victims for so long runs it. Serious consideration needs to be given to an external organisation managing the scheme, which would help in rightly building the confidence in what the scheme aims to deliver.