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Volume 647: debated on Thursday 11 October 2018

The Government deeply regret what has happened to the Windrush generation and are determined to right the wrongs they have experienced under successive Governments. The Home Office has put in place a series of measures to support those affected, one of which is the design of a compensation scheme to compensate those members of the Windrush generation who have faced difficulties in establishing their status under the immigration system.

On 19 July I published a consultation paper on the design of this compensation scheme for those who have suffered a loss as a result of these difficulties. This consultation was due to be open for a period of 12 weeks, closing today (11 October).

I am keen to ensure that the consultation exercise is thorough and allows sufficient opportunity for everyone who wants to respond, to do so. Martin Forde QC, the independent adviser appointed to oversee the development of the scheme, has written to me asking for the consultation period to be extended. This is based on his engagement with various community groups and the roadshows he has undertaken in recent weeks where people have said they need more time to respond. There are also a range of events over the coming weeks of Black History Month which would provide for a greater input into the consultation phase.

I have therefore agreed to extend the consultation by five weeks to 16 November. As I have said before I want to move quickly but carefully in establishing the scheme and this short extension balances the need to give people more time to respond to the consultation while minimising undue delay to the launch of the scheme.

Following the consultation my priority is to establish a scheme which will pay appropriate compensation as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will continue to offer people direct support to establish their immigration status.

My officials have already put several measures and initiatives in place to help those who are concerned about benefits, housing or employment. We believe that using established avenues of support is the best way of ensuring those in immediate need get the necessary support right now. Additional measures for those in immediate need include a dedicated team for vulnerable people within the Windrush taskforce, which has so far assisted over 450 people where an urgent need for support or advice has been identified; a “Fast-Track” service with the Department for Work and Pensions to confirm status and residence and arrange access to benefits; steps to secure accommodation with local authorities for those identified as homeless; and interim guidance to employers and landlords. We have also reached an agreement with Citizens Advice to provide bespoke professional advice, including debt advice, to anyone experiencing immediate financial problems.

There may be some urgent and exceptional cases where it is right to consider whether individual circumstances warrant a payment to be made before the compensation scheme is in place. I have asked my officials to develop a framework for considering such cases and I will publish that policy in due course.