Background to the report

In the spring of 2018, the Home Office (the Department) acknowledged serious shortcomings in its treatment of the Windrush generation, who had suffered harm due to the Department’s ‘hostile environment’ policies. These policies required members of the Windrush generation to demonstrate their lawful immigration status to access public services, housing and jobs. Some struggled to do this even though they were living in the UK legally. The Department acknowledged it had treated the Windrush generation unfairly and announced a set of measures to “right the wrongs” experienced by those affected. One of those measures was the Windrush Compensation Scheme (the scheme), launched in 2019. The scheme aimed to compensate members of the Windrush generation and their families for the losses and impacts they have suffered due to not being able to demonstrate their lawful immigration status.

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Parliament and the media have criticised the complexity of the claim process and the length of time it takes for claimants to receive compensation, with some claimants dying before receiving payment. They have also criticised the amount of documentation claimants must provide to support their claims. Even when claimants have been successful, they have perceived the value of payments as insufficient to compensate for the harm suffered. In December 2020, the Department announced changes to the scheme, including an increase in payments for ‘impact on life’ and a commitment to make a preliminary payment as soon as impact on life had been established.

Scope and content of the report

This investigation covers the Department’s establishment and administration of the scheme and the progress it has made in implementing the changes from December 2020. It sets out:

  • the history and development of the compensation scheme;
  • the Department’s engagement activity;
  • the number of compensation claims and payments; and
  • the Department’s administration of the scheme.

The investigation does not examine the Department’s separate Windrush Scheme (or Windrush taskforce), which was designed to ensure that members of the Windrush generation receive documentation confirming their lawful status in the UK. Nor does it examine the Department’s wider progress in implementing the recommendations of Wendy Williams’ independent lessons-learned review.

Report conclusions

The Department recognises the Windrush Compensation Scheme is an important part of its response in righting the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation. Its design aimed to compensate claimants quickly while protecting public money from abuse. However, it started accepting applications before it was ready. Until it started enacting the changes it made in December 2020, it was not meeting its objective of compensating claimants quickly. Since then, it has made some progress. By the end of March 2021, the Department had paid £14.3 million in compensation, of which £11.6 million has been paid since December 2020. Nearly 60% of the payments since December relate to paying increased ‘impact on life’ awards to those previously paid and making preliminary payments, rather than finalising more claims. The Department needs to sustain its efforts to improve its caseworking operations and management systems to ensure it fairly compensates members of the Windrush generation in acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused them.

“The Windrush Compensation Scheme was rolled out before it was ready to receive applications and two years after it was launched, people are still facing long waits to receive their final compensation payment. Since December 2020, the Home Office has made some progress, but it needs to sustain its efforts to improve the scheme to ensure it fairly compensates members of the Windrush generation in acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused them.”

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO


Publication details

Press release

View press release (21 May 2021)

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