By Catherine Evans, Senior Lecturer, Director of the London South Bank University (LSBU) Legal Advice Clinic
In 2020, LSBU Legal Advice Clinic joined a network of University Clinics, Law Centres and community organisations to form the Windrush Justice Clinic (WJC). The aim of the network is to provide legal advice on the Windrush Compensation Scheme. The compensation scheme was set up following the unfolding of the Windrush Scandal in 2018. The purpose of the scheme is to compensate the “Windrush generation” and their families for the financial losses and detriment caused by the wrongful treatment by the Home Office. It was predicated that 15,000 people would be eligible for the scheme and that the compensation would total between £120 million to £310 million. The actual figure has fallen far short of this forecast with only 960 final payment offers being made to date; this equates to around 47% of the claims made. The estimate of eligible claimants was revised down by the Home Office to 11,500 in 2019 with compensation totalling between £60 million to £260 million. This figure has been reduced further to an estimate of between 4,000 and 6,000 claims.
Work carried out by Windrush Justice Clinic
The WJC have assisted 135 clients with compensation claims. Available data from WJC organisations North Kensington Law Centre and the University of Westminster Legal Advice Clinic shows that 20 clients have so far been assisted to receive compensation awards totalling £1,151,500, with an average award of £57,572. Many more claims are ongoing. Eight clients have so far been supported to pursue reviews of their original offers and to obtain higher awards. The increase in awards across these eight claimants totals £421,430, with an average increase of £52,679 per case. A number of these claimants are presently being supported to pursue a Tier 2 appeal, so the sums awarded will likely increase further. Claimants’ losses include immigration fees, detention, deportation or removal, loss of access to employment, benefits, housing, health, education, driving licences and banking, homelessness and impact on life such as trauma, exacerbation of health conditions.
A number of reports have advanced that the limited legal advice available may be one of the key factors which have resulted in so few successful claims being made under the scheme. The aim of the research was to map the legal advice provision and gain a clearer understanding of the unmet need for legal advice on the compensation scheme.
The research comprised:
- Desk based research using existing research and Home Office data
- Data collected by the Windrush Justice Clinic
- A review of existing sources of legal advice
- Responses to a questionnaire sent to individuals impacted by the Windrush Scandal.
We found that:
- The application process is too complex without legal advice
- The support provided by “We are Digital” the organisation funded by the Home Office is inadequate: only 3 hours support is provided by whereas lawyers report most claims require more than an average of up to 45 hours per application
- Legal advice is essential for the preparation of applications, gathering of evidence and to pursue reviews, The WJC’s own data shows the substantial increases on the awards offered to claimants that have been achieved with legal support. For example, one client supported by North Kensington Law Centre appealed an offer of £14,248.88 and as a result received a final award of £97,457.00
- “We are Digital” do not signpost Claimant to legal support
- Other than the WJC there are limited providers of free legal advice
- Although it is difficult to give precise figures it is highly likely that the level of unmet need is significant
One recommendation for further research is to consider the extent to which the compensation scheme retraumatises claimants. There are also unquantifiable results we have observed in this research. I would like to put here few comments from the clients who had to deal with the Home Office, to give an idea of this traumatic experience of Windrush Generation while using the scheme:
“The Windrush compensation scheme is another scandal in itself and is being run by an institutionally racist Home Office.” “The compensation scheme is not designed to offer you what you have lost, it's designed to see how you survived the trauma, and then they use your evidence to go against you...”
“From my experiences with the Windrush Compensation Scheme / Home Office, and their responses to my claim, it is almost like they are telling me the following: "We are really, really, sorry for punching you in the face, however, we are sure you've recovered now, it wasn't that bad of a punch, so here is another punch in the face, but don't worry about that one, because you've already recovered, please accept some tape and cotton wool to make a plaster out of.'”
“The Windrush compensation scheme is another scandal in itself and not fit for purpose. The Home Office are the ones who ruined my life, why am I having to beg them for a fair and proper level of compensation. The Home Office is institutionally racist and this is a fact not an accusation.”
Catherine Evans, Senior Lecturer, Director of the LSBU Legal Advice Clinic
 JUSTICE, “Reforming the Windrush Compensation Scheme” (15 November 2021), §4.72. Available at: https://files.justice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/12142211/JUSTICE-Report-Reforming-the-Win drush-Compensation-Scheme-Press-Copy.pdf
 Ibid §4.69.