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UK News

Church leader working with home secretary to fix Windrush scandal: 'Faith without works is dead'

by Tola Mbakwe

A church leader who has been working with Home Secretary Priti Patel on overhauling the Windrush compensation scheme has said the Government has learned from its failings and is moving in the right direction. 

On Monday victims of the Windrush scandal were promised bigger and quicker payouts after complaints over difficulties in claiming compensation.

Ms Patel promised a major overhaul of the system after saying she had listened to concerns raised.

Minimum payments will be raised from £250 to £10,000 while the maximum payout will increase from £10,000 to £100,000.

Higher awards will be available for those in exceptional circumstances.

The Windrush scandal erupted in 2018 when British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in Britain. Many lost homes and jobs and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

Bishop Derek Webley, co-chair of the Windrush cross-government working group with Ms Patel and church leader at the New Testament Church of God, told Premier that through speaking with the victims, he learned there were many issues to address.

"[They said] that the process in terms of the compensation scheme seems to be protracted, it's cumbersome. They're not certain if those who are dealing with the issue actually understand where they're coming from, there's been issues of trust. 

"That lack of trust leads to a lack of confidence in the process. It's about them being able to connect with people who they feel they may be able to relate to, or who's prepared to listen to them, and it's not a part of a tick-box exercise. So, it becomes a very complex issue because it's not always easy to deal with emotions."

The compensation scheme for victims has so far paid out more than £2 million and offered £1 million more, but Ms Patel said more must be done to repair the damage and there are still concerns too few people are coming forward.

The compensation lawyer who was appointed as the department's independent adviser as it brought in the Windrush claims scheme told MPs that there were problems with the Home Office's "image and its portrayal".

He said victims he has spoken to find applying for the scheme a "real battle" and "onerous".

Bishop Webley told Premier he believes the Government has learned some lessons including what happens if it fails to listen to people. 

"I think they have definitely made an attempt to try to turn a page where the hostile environment has had a grossly negative and debilitating impact on the Windrush cohort. They have to listen. If they fail to listen, it will not change. But I believe there is a will in government to try to find a way forward in what has been successive governments who have failed the Windrush cohort in this area."

Responding to the announcement, Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "It's taken two-and-a-half years for the Government to consider any meaningful action on the offensive mess that is the Windrush compensation scheme."

Martin Forde QC, the Independent Adviser to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, last week told the Home Affairs Committee that victims of the Windrush scandal "don't trust the Home Office at all" and are "genuinely scared" - which could be deterring people from applying for compensation.

Bishop Webley said being a man of faith has helped him have empathy for those who were wronged by the Government. 

He believes the Government is now putting its money where its mouth is. 

"Their sufferings are real and the impacts of their sufferings has had a very adverse impact on many of their lives.

"Faith without works is dead, and it's important we use faith to execute works. And this has been an execution of work, along with other things that's taking place. 

"There's much more to achieve but we're moving, in my view, in the right direction, and this is a significant moment, in my view, in the journey ahead."

Listen to Premier's interview with Bishop Derek Webley here:

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