The Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill 2019-20 is due to have its Committee and remaining stages in the Commons on 24 March.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide Parliamentary authorisation for expenditure under the Windrush Compensation Scheme. Until the legislation is passed, a Ministerial Direction gives authority for payments.
The Bill (as introduced) is limited to two clauses.
Clause 1 provides Parliamentary authority for expenditure under or in connection with the Scheme, and defines the Scheme as that published by the Home Office on 3 April 2019.
Clause 2 details the territorial extent of the Bill (all UK), arrangements for its commencement (the day on which it is passed) and its short title.
The Bill does not seek to change any of the details underpinning the design or operation of the Scheme. These are set out in the Scheme Rules and associated policy guidance, which can be changed without primary legislation. The Governmant has recently made some changes, and announced some further measures to promote the Scheme (summarised below).
A revised Impact Assessment was published in February 2020.
The Government has committed to providing regular updates to Parliament on the number of compensation applications received, number of claims paid, and overall amount paid out under the Scheme. The Home Office published data on the number of applications received, the profile of applicants, and claim outcomes (up to the end of 2019) on 27 February 2020.
The Compensation Scheme
The time-limited Windrush Compensation Scheme was launched in April 2019. It was initially designed to be open for two years. The Government has recently extended the deadline for appplying to 2 April 2023.
Stakeholders have complained of lengthy delays in establishing the Scheme and issuing offers of compensation. Media reports suggest that the Home Office began to issue offers of compensation in late December 2019.
As at 31 December 2019, 1,108 compensation claims had been received. 36 payments had been made. Their combined total was £62,198. The Home Office has said that many of these were interim payments, so claimants may receive further payments in the future.
Although there was an extensive consultation on the Scheme’s design, the Scheme as launched has been heavily criticised by some stakeholders. Objections have been raised against the restrictions on the types of losses that individuals can claim for, and the limits on the amount of compensation that can be awarded for certain categories of loss, for example. The Opposition has also criticised the arrangements for reviewing compensation offers as insufficient.
The Government has recently made some adjustments to the Scheme. For example, it has broadened the “mitigations policy” so that decision-makers can consider a wider range of circumstances and actions taken by individuals to resolve their situation. It intends to appoint a permanent Independent Adviser for the Scheme, and it is tendering to extend advice and support services to potential applicants for the duration of the Scheme.
Some further measures announced by the Home Secretary on 19 March include further communications to promote the Scheme, the establishment of a new cross-government working group to improve the lives of people who have been affected by the Windrush scandal, and a £500,000 fund for grants to grassroots organisations to promote the remedies available to affected individuals.
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