"Family Life is Vitally Important to the Country, and must be protected"

16 May 2012

Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children, the national charity for children and families, has given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration. Concluding her evidence, she said:

Home Office proposals to introduce new restrictions on family migration to the UK have the potential to bring misery to thousands of families who will be forced to remain apart, with great human and economic cost to them and their children.

The proposed measure of a minimum income threshold would mean that people earning less than £25,700 a year would not be able to bring a non-EU spouse or partner to live with them in the UK in the future. This could affect up to 60% of currently eligible families, undermining every aspect of the Government’s ‘Family Test’ in one fell swoop.

Families new to the UK have told us of their overwhelming desire to build a strong and stable future for their children and family, and for the wider community. This often highly skilled group knows that moving to a new country isn’t an easy option and recognises the hard work, sacrifices and determination it will take.  They do it because of their commitment to their family’s future and the potential to be active participants in the communities in this country in which they live.

Immigration is a complex and emotive issue complicated by a system which is already rigid and impersonal.   Whatever your belief about the solution, family life is vitally important to the country, and must be protected. Only by protecting family migration can we ensure that we are strengthening UK families and communities.

Until then the Home Secretary must not implement these proposals.”

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact:

William Staynes at William.staynes@4children.org.uk (0207 522 6991 or 07833098911)

4Children

4Children is the national charity all about children and families. We have spearheaded a joined-up, integrated approach to children’s services and work with a wide range of partners around the country to ensure children and families have access to the services and support they need in their communities. We run Sure Start Children’s Centres as well as family and youth services across Britain.

We develop, influence and shape national policy on all aspects of the lives of children, young people and families. As the Government’s strategic partner for early years and childcare we have a crucial role in co-producing policy with the Department of Education and representing the sector’s views and experiences. Our national campaigns, like Give Me Strength, change policy and practice and put the needs of children and families on the political and policy agenda.

For more information visit www.4children.org.uk

In July 2011, the government issued a consultation on proposed measures to amend the rules on family migration. This followed the introduction in November 2010 of a pre-entry English language test for people applying to come to the UK as spouses and partners. The consultation was framed by the overarching government objective to reduce net migration within the current parliamentary term, and aimed to stop abuse in the family migration route, promote integration and reduce any burden on the UK taxpayer.

Among its proposals were the following key measures:

  • Extending the period before spouses and partners of British nationals and people settled here can apply for settlement in the UK, from two to five years;
  • Introducing a minimum income threshold for British nationals and people settled here who wish to sponsor spouses and partners to join them in the UK. Analysis by the Migration Advisory Committee has suggested that, on an economic basis, the minimum income threshold could be set at a level between £18,600 and £25,700 per year;
  • Reviewing the definition of a genuine marriage for the purposes of the immigration rules;
  • New English language requirements for spouses, partners and family members applying for entry and/or settlement in the UK;
  • Restrictions on family migration of dependent children and adult and elderly dependents.
  • The government is expected to announce its final decision on policy reforms in the coming months.
  • Evidence suggests that final reforms could significantly impact on family migration and in particular on spouses and partners coming to the UK. According to the Migration Advisory Committee, the introduction of a new minimum income threshold at the suggested levels could prevent between 45% and 64% of spouse and partner applicants from coming to the UK in the future. At the higher level of £25,700 per year it could exclude up to 50% of the UK working population from sponsoring a foreign spouse or partner. Charities have expressed concern about other measures, including a longer period before spouses and partners can apply for settlement in the UK (JCWI, 2011).

This information is drawn from the APPG Migration Briefing 8, published 16 May 2012.

Anne Longfield appeared at the APPG on Migration: "How can migration policy support strong, integrated families in the UK?" on 16 May 2012.

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