THE UK seems to excel in policies that harm itself, and the latest example is the ban on migrant families being together. Despite existing challenges, the UK appears determined to exacerbate its own problems. The latest self-inflicted wound? Banning migrant families from staying together.

Home Secretary James Cleverly sparked controversy recently by proudly announcing a Tory crackdown on overseas care workers.

On X (previously known as Twitter), Cleverly highlighted the advancement of the ban, announcing, “Today in Parliament, we have laid an order to ban overseas care workers from bringing dependants. This is just one part of our plan to deliver the biggest-ever cut in migration.”

In December 2023, the home secretary outlined a five-point plan aimed at reducing immigration by 300,000 people annually. As of March 11th 2024, care workers from abroad will no longer be allowed to bring spouses or children to the UK. The income requirement to sponsor family members will also more than double to a prohibitive £38,700 minimum salary.

READ MORE: What do new UK visa rules for overseas care workers mean for you?

This policy not only complicates the lives of immigrants but also has far-reaching consequences that negatively affect everyone. It is likely to backfire, as separating families serves no one and harms those who depend on the crucial services provided by care workers to lead normal lives. This approach is not just cruel; it is also short-sighted.

The recent decision to prevent overseas care workers from bringing their dependents to the UK raises significant concerns regarding its impact on an already struggling care sector. This issue is compounded by rising running costs and the repercussions of Brexit.

A government-commissioned report conducted by the charity Skills for Care reveals a staggering 150,000 vacancies for social care workers in the UK. Projections indicate that the aging population will necessitate an additional 440,000 care workers by 2035.

While Tory politicians might see this as an immigration “win,” the truth is more nuanced. Tougher rules mean fewer care workers overall, a situation that directly clashes with the rising demand for assistance from an aging population. Instead of addressing the increasing need for care, these measures risk making the challenges faced by the care sector even more pronounced.

The National: Home Secretary James Cleverly, attends a press conference in Downing Street, London, held by Prime

Care work undoubtedly stands as one of the most crucial services in the country, yet the new policy exacerbates the challenges faced by the sector. In a time when the demand for care workers is critical, the decision to require these workers to leave their families behind is bewildering. The sector is already grappling with worker shortages due to low wages and unfavourable working conditions.

This prompts the question: Why would care workers willingly endure such challenges?

Why relocate to a place that seemingly values the essential service they provide, only to be instructed to lead a difficult life, distant from their partners and children? Especially with shortages everywhere, care workers have more desirable options in other countries, without the added burden of family separation.

READ MORE: UK Government facing legal action over income threshold visa plans

Just under two years ago, skilled worker visas were broadened to encompass overseas care workers, addressing a severe workforce crisis in the UK’s social care sector. Many in the industry attribute the recruitment of staff from abroad to preventing the system from simply collapsing, acting as a crucial alternative to fall back on when domestic workforce recruitment isn’t happening.

The current policy seems to represent a significant regression, introducing a self-inflicted harm that contradicts recent efforts. A House of Lords inquiry in 2023 into family immigration shed light on the adverse effects of such separation policies.

The report highlighted that family migration policies, akin to the ones presently restricting care workers, result in separating families. This separation not only jeopardises the health and wellbeing of those affected but can also lead to destitution, particularly for families with vulnerable members, such as refugees or elderly parents.

The inquiry underscored the importance of re-uniting families, citing benefits such as enhancing fiscal contributions, retaining essential skilled workers, and preventing families from falling into destitution.

The National: Damian Green

Conservative MP Damian Green voiced his concerns about the impact of the new policy on the care sector in December, drawing attention to the existing shortage of approximately 150,000 workers in the sector. He cautioned against the new approach becoming a significant factor in reducing these numbers, as it could potentially harm the care sector.

In response, Cleverly defended the policy by stating: “It will mean that we have the care workers we need and not the estimated 120,000 other people who have come with them in recent years.”

The highlights a widespread assumption of fraud in family re-unification processes, suggesting that individuals come to the country with the intention of settling their relatives. Such views are disregarding fundamental rights such the right to live with family.

In Conservative rhetoric, there are two contrasting views on immigration: one termed “chosen” and supported, and the other considered “endured” and in need of restriction. This new migration policy approach, aiming to differentiate between “chosen” and “endured” immigration, serves as the pretext for imposing restrictions on the right to family life.

READ MORE: Tory plan to hike visa salary threshold sends ‘damaging message' 

“Chosen” immigration is about meeting the country’s needs, especially in a professional context. It involves opening the labour market in sectors with workforce shortages, proposing residence permits to highly skilled migrants, and welcoming top foreign students.

This concept inherently opposes that of “endured” immigration. Family immigration is portrayed as a symbol of this supposedly undesirable immigration that should be limited, primarily because it is perceived as not responding significantly to the country’s needs.

The policy in place focuses on distinguishing between family immigration and economic immigration, categorising individuals as either workers or family members. This is silly for two reasons. Firstly, workers aren’t mere cogs in a machine; they are real people with relatives – a fact that might be surprising to some Tories, apparently.

The National: Devon County Council is calling for more care workers to come forward

Secondly, if we look at the spouses of foreigners entering the UK through family reunification, they too have the potential to be workers. Despite their migration not being driven by professional reasons, they have the right to work, and many of them are actively contributing to the workforce in Britain.

In the end, does this ban on foreign workers’ families fulfil its promise of strengthening the country? Or does it undermine it by prioritising arbitrary targets over compassion and common sense?

It is wrong to blame foreigners for putting us in precarious situations. They are not the cause of our troubles; rather, they contribute to economic and social development.

What stands out to me is the lack of humility.

Perhaps this explains the country’s unwillingness or reluctance to recognise and accept the expertise and advice of others, particularly industry experts who have been making desperate pleas for an evidence-led approach to the immigration conversation.

In this debate, what we truly need is to be grounded in facts. Instead, we are witnessing another episode of a Tory party in a state of panic, running like a headless chicken around the immigration theme ahead of General Elections that they have no hope of winning.