Margaret Hodge, the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has accused the Home Office of “gross inadequacy” in its treatment of one of her constituents, a Windrush victim who died this week.
In a letter to home secretary Sajid Javid, the Labour MP for Barking said Sarah O’Connor, who had spent 51 years in the UK after moving here at the age of six, was “treated appallingly by the Home Office, who questioned her status as a British citizen for a year”.
“This resulted in her falling into extreme financial hardship, which impacted on her mental wellbeing right up until the day she died,” Hodge wrote.
“Due to Home Office failings”, O’Connor had been unable to work or claim benefits, forcing her to sell possessions, and her landlord threatened to evict her, she told Javid.
Hodge said she had written to the home secretary in June urging him to award O’Connor compensation “without any further delay... that sufficiently reflects the financial and emotional turmoil caused by the Home Office’s gross inadequacy”.
Two months later, a response from immigration minister Caroline Nokes told her the Home Office was consulting on a compensation scheme and that it had put in place extra support people who were “in immediate need”.
But Hodge added: “I am deeply disappointed to say that it fell to my office team, not the Home Office, to provide Sarah with the extra support she needed when it came to the issues she faced as a result of your department’s failings."
“Sadly, Sarah will never be reimbursed for her traumatic experiences and she will never see the Home Office resolve her Windrush injustice,” she said. She urged Javid to ensure O’Connor’s family receives compensation.
In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson said: "Our sincere condolences are with Ms O'Connor's family and friends at this difficult time.”
The letter was published just a few days after the Home Office announced 2,398 members of the Windrush generation had successfully applied for documentation confirming their British citizenship or right to remain in the UK since the Windrush scheme opened in May.
“We continue to make significant progress in granting citizenship and other documentation proving status through the Windrush scheme,” Javid said in a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee last week.
His letter said more than 6,500 people who had contacted the department's Windrush task force were earmarked as possibly being eligible for the scheme, and referred for a call back from a caseworker.
The Home Office is now beginning to issue refusals to people whose applications have been refused either because they had not supplied insufficient evidence that they are eligible for the scheme, or due to “evidence of serious criminality”.
So far 32 overseas applicants have been granted visitor or returning residents’ visas.