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Politics

Diane Abbott accuses the government of 'waiting for the Windrush generation to die'

The former shadow home secretary repeated calls for the Home Office to give up control of the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

Diane Abbott. Image: Parliament TV

Diane Abbott has condemned the Home Office’s handling of the Windrush compensation scheme and accused the government of “waiting for this generation to pass away”.

Speaking at a parliamentary debate on Thursday, Abbott said the Home Office’s refusal to hand the scheme over to an independent body showed a lack of respect for the victims of the Windrush Scandal.

MPs were debating a report that found the scheme had paid compensation to just five per cent of the estimated 15,000 eligible, and that 23 people have died before receiving any money.

Campaigners have said the scheme “re-traumatises” victims, and that the fact it is run by the same department responsible for the wrongs of the Windrush scandal stopped victims claiming compensation.

Abbott said: “For ministers to, year after year, ignore what is said to them about the complaints process, ignore the suggestions that people make in good faith, that suggests to me they don’t respect that generation.

“They don’t understand the humiliation this generation feels and clearly it is as if they are waiting for this generation to pass away.”

A total of four official reports have damned the Home Office’s handling of the compensation scheme, with one saying the scheme was plagued by the same bureaucratic failings that led to the original scandal.

The Home Affairs Committee joined calls for the Home Office to be stripped of the scheme with its report in November.

Calling for guarantees of legal assistance for members of the Windrush generation who were trying to claim compensation, Abbott said: “This is a signifier of the care and the respect in which this society held them.”

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said the government had made a number of changes to the scheme which had resulted in higher payments being made, and a higher number of applications.

He said over £33million had been paid to 940 claimants since changes were made in December 2020, and that the scheme had recently paid a single person over £260,000.

Foster also invited MPs to visit the centre in Leeds where the scheme was being managed.

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