Reunited Families UK Mental Health Research

Reunite Families UK is currently coordinating an important research project looking into the mental health impacts of the UK spouse visa rules on children and young people.

In 2012, a minimum income requirement (MIR) was introduced as a salary threshold a UK citizen and settled resident had to meet in order to apply to bring a partner or child to the country. Over a decade later, this policy is still in place and following Brexit, EU citizens must now abide by these rules – both as a joining family member of a UK/settled resident as well as a settled resident trying to bring their partner to the UK (if the EU settled resident has started living in the UK after December 2020).

We are co-producing this research with families affected by these rules, a mental health organisation, Implemental, to do an initial evaluation that will provide the basis for a larger report and have an impressive advisory group made up of experts in immigration law; children’s mental health; academics specialising in immigration and social policy; and children’s rights.

We are currently looking for families and experts to be involved:  

Family Reunion in the UK  

The UK’s family reunification policies continue to remain as amongst the most restrictive around the world according to The Migrant Integration Policy Index.

Reunite Families UK have, for years, highlighted the deleterious impact this has had, and it is continuing to have on families who are forced to be separated. Family separation has been associated in studies with cognitive development and educational performance, since parent separation has multiple negative effects on the children, because the children feel that it is their fault. They take on guilt and stresses and it diminishes their resources and ability to cope, because they are separated from a parent through no fault of their own. It impacts on them very negatively.

Over a decade since the UK Spouse visa policy was introduced, couples and families have been devastated by the policy and the process involved in reuniting loved ones here in the UK and now Reunite Families UK has been funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation to research the impact of these rules on children and families in particular. 

Recently the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee published a report which found how family migration policies are failing both families, children and society as a whole.

“The best interests of the child should be at the heart of family migration decisions. Mechanisms, inspired by best practices in family law, should be introduced to protect children in all immigration matters. We believe that it is in the best interests of a child living in this country to be surrounded by their family and to remain here. The voice of the child must be heard”.

We hope with our report into the impacts on some of the most vulnerable group in society – children – we will be able to highlight the real impacts of a cruel and unnecessary policy to influence much needed changes that reflect the strong family values we and society believes in, the importance of an immigration system that supports the reunification of loved ones and celebrates the contribution non-British nationals bring to the UK.

The Mental Health Research Project

The chief aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of the real impacts of these rules on all those affected by working with families and experts in focus group settings as well as through other information gathering methods. The findings will then form the basis of a report that we will present to Parliament to help influence policy change. Conscious of its relevance outside of the policy-making arena, we hope the report will also raise awareness of the issues within non-migration sectors including professionals working in mental health and education who might often encounter children affected by the issues at hand. 

RFUK is co-producing this work with families that are impacted and the evaluation is being done with an organisation called Implemental with Tony Coggins who is Lead Associate Population Mental Health. We are proud to able to count on an excellent advisory board for the project – experts with decades of experience working in the migration sector, with experience ranging from the Home Office to NGOs to prestigious academic departments.

The Advisory Members are:

  • Colin Yeo – Immigration barrister
  • Young Minds mental health charity policy team
  • Anita Hurrell – Coram Children’s Legal Centre
  • Madeleine Sumption – Migration Observatory
  • Ian Robinson – Partner, Vialto and ex Home Office staff
  • Prof Eleonore Kofman – Professor of Gender, Migration and Citizenship at Middlesex University
  • Prof Helena Wray – Associate Professor, Director of Research, Exeter University
  • Jane Golding/Fiona Godfrey – British in Europe
  • Zoe Given-Wilson – Clinical Psychologist and Postdoctoral Researcher, Royal Holloway
  • Rissa Mohabir – Trauma Awareness

Focus Groups

We have already done one focus group with families and the information coming through is already deeply troubling. Initial reports have flagged that children are experiencing extreme issues such as selective mutism, stool holding, depression, anxiety and guilt whilst adults/parents are experiencing extreme depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal thoughts, enforced single parenting, loneliness, high levels of avoidable debt and financial difficulty due to visa journey. 

We are now in the process of inviting participants for the next two focus groups which will help us in progressing with the project. The upcoming 2 focus groups will consist of  

1) professionals working with children affected, parents and psychologists we will bring in who work with children; and

2) children themselves (which will be led by child specialists).

Next steps and how you can get involved:

  • Are you a child mental health professional and would like to take part in our advisory group and design of our focus groups?
  • Are you a family affected by the spouse visa rules and would like to share your experience in a safe and supported space?

If so and would like to take part in this important work, we would love to hear from you as soon as possible. Please contact Caroline via email for more information

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