The profound injustice and ongoing failures to adequately provide redress for the victims of the Windrush scandal is widely reported. In November 2021, the Home Affairs Committee on the Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) found: ‘Instead of providing a remedy, for many people the Windrush Compensation Scheme has actually compounded the injustices faced as a result of the Windrush Scandal’. There are numerous issues with the schemes, including low uptake, delay in decision making, low amounts awarded, inadequate appeals system, highly complex application process, hostile approach to assessment of evidence and inadequate legal advice provision.
The WJC strives to help victims receive the compensation they deserve, utilising the strengths of its various partners offering holistic assistance to victims whilst also engaging in casework, advocacy, and research. So far, the WJC has assisted or is currently assisting over 100 clients to claim compensation from the Home Office, with 20 being awarded a total of £1 151 000. A research report on the unmet need for legal advice for Windrush compensation claims will be published on 25 May 2022.
The WJC is supervised at King’s Legal Clinic by Shaila Pal, director and supervising solicitor.
‘The scale of unmet legal need and the suffering of Windrush victims is considerable and there is much that needs to be done. The strength of the WJC is the collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to tackling issues. Working with trusted community partners clients are provided with high quality representation and compassionate support.
‘King’s students are provided with a rich learning experience and an important lens into the hostile immigration environment and racism. The work is challenging and complex and I am proud of the dedication shown by King’s students and their commitment to serving their community.’
– Shaila Pal, Director and Supervising Solicitor.
The WJC is a collaborative partnership between King’s Legal Clinic, University of Westminster Legal Advice Clinic, London South Bank University Legal Advice Clinic, North Kensington Law Centre, Southwark Law Centre (SLC) and community groups Claudia Jones Organisation (CJO) and The Jigsaw House Society.
The award recognises the work of the University partners, which includes the delivery of training to students, community outreach, triage of cases, casework and development of research. King’s part-funds a solicitor at SLC and 20 King’s students have been involved in a range of activities. Activites have included supporting community outreach sessions to raise awareness of the WCS and build trust in the elderly Windrush community in Southwark and provide casework support to the SLC solicitor in complex cases involving vulnerable clients.
Southwark Law Centre executive director Sally Causer said: ‘The WJC, and in particular the University Legal Advice Clinics, are developing a body of evidence and research in order to improve the support that often very vulnerable people need. Funding from King’s College has increased SLC’s capacity to provide specialist casework for Windrush victims. King’s students have shown real enthusiasm and commitment in their role.’
WJC clients are often particularly vulnerable because of the injustices experienced due to successive government policies and the complex application process can be re-traumatising for them.
The impact of the pro bono activity for victims of the scandal has been immeasurable, with one client commenting: ‘When you have had a trauma like the Windrush scandal and all the emotions and problems that can bring, it can be really daunting to then have to find the right words to write. For my mother (her contact with the WJC) was the first time she felt heard and from that healing can come and hope.’
The impact and benefit for King’s students has also been considerable. LLB student Aaliyah Lindo said:
‘Not only does the WJC help to spread awareness about access to justice, but it has educated me personally about the true scale and extent of the hardships suffered due to the Windrush scandal. KLC and SLC have been incredibly supportive throughout the process. Clear training set a high standard of professionalism and provided us with knowledge that extends beyond the scheme relating to safeguarding, confidentiality, privacy, and cultural competency. This was indispensable in helping us to place the project in the context of wider systemic issues.
‘Visiting the Elim House community centre was an affecting, but necessary, experience, as it allowed me to witness the effects not only on the individuals directly impacted, but the generational loss it has caused. Supporting our client has been a really inspiring experience.’
Award winners were announced at an awards ceremony at the House of Lords on 4 May by Lubna Shuja, Vice President, The Law Society of England and Wales and the Attorney General, the Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP.