Barking MP criticises Windrush compensation scheme bill

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Images

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Images - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A scheme to compensate Windrush scandal victims has been slammed by MP Dame Margaret Hodge.

Barking's member of parliament criticised the government's Windrush compensation scheme bill currently being pored over by MPs in Westminster.

Dame Margaret said: "Sadly, the compensation scheme falls woefully short of what the victims of this scandal desperately need.

"The scheme is poorly advertised and insufficiently funded. Many of those affected are still understandably cautious about making a claim because of the Home Office's disastrous hostile environment policy."

The hostile environment policy is a set of measures aimed at making it difficult for people without leave to remain to stay in the country.

Barking's Labour Party MP claimed the plans fail to cover many of the costs incurred by Windrush victims who are "poorly treated" by the Home Office.

The Windrush scandal saw people wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and in some cases wrongly deported.

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Between 1948 and 1970, almost 500,000 people moved from the Caribbean to Britain. The immigrants were later referred to as the Windrush generation, named after the ship HMT Empire Windrush which first carried people to Britain, docking in Tilbury on June 22, 1948.

Members of the Windrush generation living in the UK for decades struggled to prove their immigration status because they didn't have the documents to prove it.

Some people, lawfully resident in the UK but without proof of their rights, became affected by the hostile environment policy, finding themselves denied healthcare, benefits, pensions, housing and work.

Dame Margaret said: "For years now the Windrush generation has been let down by successive Conservative governments. We saw the devastating impact of this failure right here in Barking and Dagenham with the appalling death of Sarah O'Connor. Sarah's family, and many other families, desperately deserve proper compensation."

Ms O'Connor told the Guardian in March 2018 that she faced bankruptcy after being classified an illegal immigrant.

"For many this scheme is too little, too late. The government needs to scrap the hostile environment and give their scheme a complete rethink," Dame Margaret added.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are righting the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation. This includes extending the Windrush compensation scheme, which has been carefully designed with independent oversight so that it is as easy to use as possible.

"There is independent advice and assistance available to anyone who would like support to complete their claim. The scheme aims to provide a decision to applicants as soon as possible but it is right that we take the time to ensure these are dealt with properly."

The first compensation payment was made within four months of the scheme being set up. A total of 36 payments were made by December 2019.

By September 2019, 23 payments were made under an urgent and exceptional payments policy.

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