A father who ended up homeless because he could not prove his right to work in the UK has described his lengthy experience with the Windrush compensation scheme as “worse than hell”.
Fitzroy Maynard said he had been unable to get work for around a decade after losing his job as a residential caretaker in 2007.
Having come from Antigua as a child in 1980 and later worked in the UK for years, he found himself sofa-surfing after being unable to prove to prospective employers that he had the right to work in the UK as he lacked the relevant documentation.
Becoming tearful as he recalled his desperate situation, the 57-year-old said: “It’s been worse than hell. Just imagine you have no money, you have no food, you have nowhere to sleep, you’re freezing, you’re in the same clothes for weeks, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
He said he had been offered some compensation by the Home Office but none to cover his loss of access to employment “because they can’t see a reason why it was their fault”.
He said: “I’m not claiming for losing my job, I’m claiming for loss of access to employment after I lost my job. They really think either people can’t read or we are stupid. I’m fed up with the behaviour because they know exactly what they’re doing.”
He said he is determined to fight for what he is entitled to and insisted anyone using the scheme needs the support of a legal professional.
He said: “They keep on saying people do not need a lawyer to do this (but) people need a lawyer.”
Mr Maynard, who lives in Hackney, north London, and now works as a part-time handyman while he is a full-time carer for his eight-year-old daughter, said he feels celebrations being held this year to mark the Windrush 75th anniversary are only happening because of the “misery” that has been caused to people”.
He said: “This celebration has only come because of misery to people. They (the Government) are only starting to recognise it because they have done lots of bad and they’re trying to make it right.”
Human rights charity Praxis, which has helped Mr Maynard and others, said the compensation scheme “only adds serious insult to serious injury” for victims of the scandal, and called on it to be made independent from the Home Office.
Praxis chief executive Sally Daghlian said: “Perhaps unsurprisingly, the department that shredded thousands of lives is now failing at compensating its victims for the hardship they had to endure.
“The compensation scheme should be removed from the hands of the Home Office and managed by an independent body working closely with the communities affected, providing a simplified and speedy process with expert, independent representation available for claimants.”
Lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie, who has helped people claim compensation through the scheme, said “people don’t have faith in the system” due to their poor experiences with the Home Office.
She said: “They’re saying ‘we’re being re-traumatised, the process of actually making a claim is re-traumatising us’.”
The Home Office said it continues to listen and respond to feedback to ensure the scheme is operating effectively for all.