UK

Windrush scandal: Sajid Javid apologises to woman wrongly denied help

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Media captionWillow Sims says her mental health - and family - are suffering as she tries to resolve the issue

The home secretary has apologised to a 41-year-old woman who faced deportation and eviction after being wrongly refused help by the Windrush scheme.

Willow Sims, who moved to the UK from the US aged four, lost proof of her indefinite leave to remain when she was taken into foster care.

Sajid Javid said he was "concerned" by the mother-of-two's story.

Ms Sims said she hoped the Home Office would find a solution "so that nobody has to not exist ever again".

She worked as a teaching assistant until last year, when she was subjected to a routine DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check by her employers.

Without the necessary documents, she was unable to prove her immigration status, and subsequently lost her right to work, and her access to healthcare and benefits.

She is now thousands of pounds in debt and reliant on food banks.

The Windrush taskforce was set up last April to help thousands of people who were wrongly targeted by the Home Office's "hostile environment" strategy for illegal immigration.

People of any nationality who settled in the UK before 31 December 1988 can apply to the taskforce for help securing proof of their status.

But when Ms Sims rang the helpline she was told she did not qualify for assistance because she was not from a Commonwealth country.

Later, after the BBC approached the Home Office, it confirmed she was, in fact, eligible after all.

Mr Javid told MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday: "I am absolutely happy to apologise to her for the mistakes of the Home Office in not recognising the importance of her case right from the first moment she contacted the Home Office."

He has committed officials in his department to further training to prevent similar errors happening again.

Image copyright Willow Sims
Image caption Willow Sims (left) lost her right to work in the UK, despite having lived in the country since she was four

Responding to Mr Javid's statements, Ms Sims said: "I'm just so happy that I have a name again and that I'm a person again.

"I just hope a solution can be found so that nobody has to not exist ever again."

Ellie Reeves, Ms Sims' local MP, said her constituent was "failed by mistakes at every level of government" and called for the "chaos" to be "urgently rectified".

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