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Visa mix-up leaves west Cumbrian woman faced with leaving the country

Alison Hawkins Credit: ITV Border

A west Cumbrian community is rallying to support a woman who's facing the possibility of leaving the country over a visa mix-up.

Alison Hawkins, who is married to a British national and whose children are British citizens , has lived with her family in Distington near Whitehaven for 13 years.

A mix-up has led to the 42-year-old's visa application being rejected. When she reapplied for it, she was told she hadn't paid an NHS surcharge. The Home Office said a letter was sent about it but she says she didn't receive one.

"It was completely unexpected because I have lived here for so long. I pay my taxes, my national insurance, my children have grown up here and to suddenly get a letter to say you have to start making plans to was...I don't know what the word was heart-wrenching"

– Alison Hawkins

When the village community heard about it, a petition was begun. Around 140 people have signed it in the community centre and Church. The Assistant Curate says people have even knocked at her door to ask how they can sign it.

"People are really shocked that something like an administrative error could make such a difference to a families life and could potentially split them up and people are just really amazed that that's a possibility"

– Rev. Heather Lowe, Church of the Holy Spirit, Distington

We are completely overwhelmed, we've lived in this village for 13 years and its nice to think we've been accepted as part of this community"

– Alison Hawkins

Alison has paid the surcharge and has reapplied for the visa, but now faces an anxious few weeks to find out if it will be approved.

"All applications for leave to remain in the UK are considered on their individual merits and according to the evidence provided. Ms Hawkins’ application was rejected because she did not submit the correct documentation or the necessary fees. It remains open to her to make a fresh application"

– Home Office statement

Copeland community gets Christmas Lottery boost

A community in Copeland is set to benefit from a programme run by the Big Lottery Fund designed to help residents improve their local area.

The one million pound funding boost will be provided over the next ten years and will be spent as residents decide.

"This is an excellent Christmas bonus for the people of Distington, who I am sure will come up with some impressive and impactful ideas for how best to invest this money in the community.

Distington is a unique and welcoming village, with a strong community spirit.

This investment will help ensure that work that is already taking place and be expanded on and developed and will bring together all the local talent, ambitions, skills and energy from individuals and groups who want to make a positive and lasting difference to Distington."

– John Bowman, Distington ward councillor


Distington gets million pound boost

Distington in north Copeland is set to benefit from the Big Local programme and receive funding of one million pounds to help residents improve their local area.

The funding will be delivered over the next ten years, along with support, training and networking opportunities to help residents make their community a better place to live.

The million pound boost comes as part of The Big Local scheme, which was launched in July 2010, and supports 150 small urban and rural communities across the country.

What a fantastic Christmas present this is for the people of Distington and Copeland more widely.

Being selected as a Big Local area will provide a massive boost for the community, and the funding will help Distington residents to make real and lasting improvements to their village."

– ouncillor Elaine Woodburn, Leader of Copeland Borough Council