Social Justice

Priti Patel threatened with legal action if she doesn't give up control of Windrush compensation scheme

Just five per cent of Windrush victims eligible for compensation have received a payout.

The Home Secretary will face legal action unless the scheme is made independent within 10 days. Image: Parliament

Priti Patel is facing legal action if the Home Office does not hand over control of the widely-criticised Windrush compensation scheme to an independent body.

The home secretary has been given until December 23 to relinquish control of the scheme or face further legal action, the Independent reports.

Just five per cent of the estimated 15,000 people eligible for compensation had received a penny by September – four years after the Windrush scandal.

The Good Law Project and campaign group Windrush Lives are asking Patel to appoint an independent body to run the scheme, and have sent her a pre-action protocol letter.

Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said: “The evidence is that the Home Office can’t be trusted to mark its own homework. The Home Affairs Committee has said what Windrush victims have said all along: the scheme has to be handed over to an independent organisation if it is to work.”

Alongside the two organisations sending the letter, three Windrush claimants are also expected to join the legal case if the deadline is not met. Paul Akers-Smith and Anthony Williams have received only the £10,000 preliminary award, while the letter says Carl Nwazota, who has received nothing so far, tried to take his own life because of the impact of the Windrush scandal.

Ramya Jaidev from Windrush Lives described the process as: “The same grotesque, systemically racist bureaucracy that selected Windrush migrants and their descendants for removal, for political ends. “

Last month, a group of MPs joined the calls for the scheme to be made independent, saying the fact the scheme is run by the department which caused the scandal is undermining confidence.

Yvette Cooper, the Home Affairs select committee’s chair, said: “It is staggering, given the failures of the Windrush scandal, that the Home Office has allowed some of the same problems to affect the Windrush compensation scheme too.”

A total of four official reports have criticised the Home Office’s handling of the scheme.

A report by human rights charity Justice said fear and mistrust of the department was stopping victims claiming compensation.

Another report found that the scheme is so convoluted that victims need legal advice – and are having to hand lawyers up to a third of their eventual compensation.

Patrick Vernon, a campaigner who led the Windrush Day campaign and has gathered over 130,000 signatures on his Fix the Windrush compensation scheme petition, has previously called for Priti Patel to recognise the anger at the scheme.

“The community has made it very clear we don’t trust the Home Office to manage the scheme. The home secretary now needs to do the right thing and start the process of finding a new agency to manage it so confidence can be restored and justice given,” he told The Big Issue.

“It’s imperative – too many people have died without receiving compensation.”

As of September, a total of 23 Windrush victims had died before receiving any compensation.

The Home Office has argued that making the scheme independent would risk delaying payments.

The Big Issue has approached the Home Office for comment.

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