The Family Test – Rhetoric & Reality

29 Aug 2014

The Prime Minster has announced a new Family Test which will be applied to all domestic policy. He said:

For me, nothing matters more than family. It is at the centre of my life and the heart of my politics…Long before you get to the Welfare State, it is the family that is there to care for you when you are sick or when you fall on tough times.
…for someone from my political viewpoint who believes in building a stronger society from the bottom up, there is no better place to start than with the family… As Ferdinand Mount argued in The Subversive Family, all those in history who have wanted to remake society altogether – whether on the extreme left or the extreme right – have tried to destroy the family. Why? Because those who want an all powerful state can't stand the idea of family getting in the way…
…So that's my agenda on the family. Helping families come together, helping families stay together and helping children in troubled families or those with no family at all… I want every Government department to be held to account for the impact of their policies on the family… Put simply that means every single domestic policy that government comes up with will be examined for its impact on the family.

My client M is a citizen of a former British colony (I have deliberately anonymised M's predicament). He is married to J. J is a British citizen who was a teacher in the former colony when she and M met. They have three children who have dual nationality. For M, nothing matters more than his family. It is at the centre of his life.

Following the start of the economic downturn in 2008 the economy of M's country more or less collapsed. In 2010 he found employment in the oil industry in Texas. He had to leave J and the children behind because the US authorities wouldn't grant them visas to accompany him or allow short term visits. M supported his family by remittances and returned home regularly for visits. However as the economic depression continued so public order deteriorated and the education system began to creak.

Eighteen months ago M and J's neighbours were murdered. The family decided it was no longer safe for them to stay where they were so J and the children moved to the UK where they now live with her parents. M continues to support his family from afar but wants to join them not least because the children desperately miss their father and his absence is affecting both their behaviour and performance in school.

M can't get a visa because he can't demonstrate an income in this country until he has got here and established himself in business here. M is not alone. There are thousands of others in the same boat.

At the Conservative party conference last year the Home Secretary said the number of family visas issued by her department had fallen by a third and this is an achievement to be proud of. 6 weeks ago the Court of Appeal approved her policy. I wonder what she'll say at next month's conference.