New Age UK report calls for urgent reform of Windrush Compensation Scheme

Almost five years since its creation fewer than one in seven of all those entitled have been compensated. Fifty three people have already died waiting for their claims to be processed.

In a damning new report, Justice Denied: Reforming the Windrush Compensation Scheme, Age UK analyses the Windrush Compensation Scheme and finds it badly wanting. The Charity says that to give the Windrush Generation and their families the redress to which they are entitled, thorough-going reform of the Scheme is urgently required. 

The Windrush scandal, which came to light in 2017, exposed the appalling treatment of members of the Windrush Generation and others who arrived in the UK from Commonwealth countries after the Second World War. As the story tellers featured in the report show, despite having a legal right to reside in the UK, many faced wrongful detention, deportation, and the denial of basic rights and services. This was after they had lived and worked here for many years, they and/or their parents having come in response to invitations from UK governments to help rebuild our nation after the terrible destruction of the war years.

The scandal came about as a result of Home Office actions designed to deter illegal immigration, an approach that was formalised in 2012 as the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy. Members of the Windrush Generation were quite wrongly impacted by these policies, often facing the nightmarish situation of needing to show they were legally resident in the UK after being here for many years but without necessarily having the documents to prove it. It subsequently emerged that, in some cases, the Home Office itself had destroyed the relevant records years earlier, little realising that they would come to matter so much later on.

Against this context it is not surprising that academic research[i] has recently concluded that the UK’s Hostile Environment policies had a worse effect on the mental health of black Caribbean people than the Covid-19 lockdown had on the wider population.

The Government subsequently and rightly acknowledged that the Windrush Generation had been treated badly and the Windrush Compensation Scheme opened for claims in April 2019 to provide recompense. However, by the end of 2023 only 1,993 individuals have been offered compensation, fewer than one in seven (13%) of all whom the Home Office estimates to be eligible.

The Home Office’s original assumption was that 15,000 people would be eligible but, by the end of 2023, only 7,688 claims had been made[ii]. Significant numbers of those affected are thus still awaiting justice and restitution.

Tragically, 53 people have died waiting for their claims to be processed. Time is not on the side of these older people, reinforcing the urgency of making the Compensation Scheme fit for purpose.

In its report Age UK points to the following problems with the Scheme:

  • Making the Home Office responsible for administering the scheme, after the Department’s actions had caused the problem in the first place, thereby deterring some people from submitting claims
  • Administrative delays and errors
  • An inadequate appeals process for challenging decision
  • The exclusion from awards of losses due to private pensions
  • An insufficiently generous approach to loss of future earnings
  • Too high a burden of proof for bigger compensation claims.

To make the Compensation Scheme fit for purpose Age UK calls for:

  • An independent body that older people can trust to take over the running of the Compensation Scheme from the Home Office
  • Compensation to be made available for losses to both State and private pensions.
  • Faster application and appeals processes.
  • Better training for case workers and determined management action to ensure greater consistency between cases in terms of outcomes.
  • Improved routes for challenging Compensation Scheme decisions.
  • Loss of future earnings to be compensated more generously.

Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive of Age UK said:  “A Windrush Compensation Scheme that was fit for purpose and run independently could begin to heal the hurt felt by the Windrush Generation and their families, but instead the current inadequate arrangements rub salt into the wounds. Approaching five years after it was established, fewer than one in seven of all those estimated to be entitled have been compensated, and more than fifty people have died waiting for their claims to be processed.

“This is a demonstration of failure, and I am surprised and disappointed that no concerted action has been taken by Ministers to review and reform the Windrush Compensation Scheme in response to figures like these. Moving the Scheme’s administration to an independent body so claimants have the confidence to apply, is long overdue. So too is a redesign of the Scheme so it provides fair recompense for loss of future earnings, as well as loss of future private pension income. Home Office officials have told Age UK that estimating the loss of future private pension income is impossible, but we know from other work we do that it can in fact be done.

“The Windrush Compensation Scheme could be made much fairer and easier to access, with the requisite political will. Ministers need to act quickly before it’s too late and more people go to their graves uncompensated for the enormous harm they and their families have experienced through the years.”

Partick Vernon Social Commentator & Windrush Campaigner said: “While retirement should be a time for rest and enjoying one’s golden years, the lives of too many of our Windrush generation have been undeniably tainted by Home Office failures to compensate people properly for the huge damage done by the Windrush scandal. Age UK’s report highlights the ongoing flaws in the compensation scheme and makes some clear recommendations to the Government. They should act on them now before many more die.”

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[i] ‘Jeffrey et al, The effect of immigration policy reform on mental health in people from minoritised ethnic groups in England: an interrupted time series analysis of longitudinal data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study cohort, Lancet Psychiatry March 2024, DOI:


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