Victims of state abuse call on next Government to reform redress schemes

Victims of state abuse are calling on the next Government to urgently reform “significant systemic issues” in the administration and regulation of redress schemes.

Lawyers, campaigners and victims of abuse including the Windrush scandal and Lambeth children’s home sexual abuse scandal met at a roundtable meeting hosted by King’s College London (KCL) last week.

Those present at the meeting included Dr Raymond Stevenson, 60, from Brixton, founder of the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA), which works with victims of the sexual abuse that took place in Lambeth council’s children’s homes between the 1950s and 1980s.

He said: “It was a very interesting meeting and we will be working together to make redress schemes more fair.”

The meeting discussed a KCL report published in February 2024, comparing the Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) to the Lambeth Children’s Home Redress Scheme (‘Lambeth Scheme’), the Horizon Shortfall Scheme (‘HSS’) and the Infected Blood Compensation Scheme. 

The WCS has the lowest success rate for applicants, the report found, with only 22 per cent of those applying receiving compensation and 53 per cent of initial applications being refused. 

Under the Lambeth Scheme, 79 per cent of applications were successful, with eight per cent being refused.

Dr Stevenson said: “We have been successful because we refused to settle with initial offers. 

“We work with victims and insist they refuse until they are offered a sufficient amount of compensation for their trauma.”

SOSA’s founder, Dr Raymond Stevenson (Picture: Raymond Stevenson)

The recipient of one of the first Windrush compensation offers, Glenda Caesar, was also present at the meeting.

The 63-year-old from Hackney, who previously worked in South London and Maudlsey hospital, came to Britain legally as a three-month-old child in 1961, from Dominica.

In 2009 she was terminated from her position at a GP Practice on the grounds that she did not have the right to live or work in the UK, even though she had worked in the NHS for 20 years.

Now working for the Windrush Justice Clinic representing other victims, Ms Caesar said: “I rejected two offers from the Home office, the first was £10,000 and the second was £22,264. 

“It was ridiculous – I had been out of work for 10 years. 

“I got a six figure sum after constantly challenging them and seeking legal representation from North Kensington Law Centre.”

The WCS application form runs to 44 pages and the scheme has no provision for Government funded independent legal advice or representation.

The WCS is also the only scheme where the perpetrator of the original harm, the Home Office, is solely responsible for the decision making.

Glenda Caesar (Picture: Glenda Caesar)

Ms Caesar said: “How do you negotiate with the burglar who stole your things – you can’t.

“Victims are the only ones who can support other victims. We know how it feels – we know exactly what should be done.”

The Lambeth Scheme – which ran from 2018 to 2022 – is overseen by a team consisting of Lambeth council and their solicitors (Kennedy’s LLP).

According to the council, 2,240 victims have received more than £100million. But, Dr Stevenson has accused the council of forcing about 150 people into accepting offers. SOSA will be mounting a legal claim against the council on behalf of these victims.

He said: “The parties involved in the abuse should not administer their own schemes.

“We all found that victims have suffered from information that was withheld by the organisations providing compensation.”

Campaigners are calling for compulsory guidelines for redress schemes and the creation of an arms-length body responsible for setting up and overseeing them.

Ms Cesar said: “We need to come together to hold the Government to account – every Government – and the next elected Government will have to deal with this.”

A Lambeth Council spokesman said: “We make a sincere and heartfelt apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and neglect.

“To make good on that apology and in the absence of a national equivalent Lambeth set up the Redress Scheme in consultation with abuse survivors. Since its establishment the council has been advising other Governments and public bodies looking to do the same.

“The scheme was set up to avoid re-traumatising survivors by offering an alternative to going through the courts, which is the usual route for compensation claims.”

Labour and Conservatives have been approached for comment.

Pictured top: Glenda Caesar speaks at the meeting at Kings College London last week (Glenda Caesar)

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