THE UK Government has set out plans to dramatically reduce the level of legal immigration – in the face of warnings they risk hammering the numbers of people filling vacancies in health and care services.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has unveiled a raft of measures he said would cut immigration to the UK, including hiking by a third the income requirement to £38,700 – but said healthcare workers would be exempt.

The threshold is below what a fully qualified and registered teacher in Scotland would have earned at the beginning of the year. 

There will be tough new rules on immigrants bringing family members with them, banning care workers from bringing over dependants, Cleverly said.

He said that in the year to this September, around 120,000 dependants accompanied 100,000 care workers, and only 25% of the dependants were in work.

But challenged by the SNP’s Chris Stephens (below), the Home Secretary was unable to say how many of those were children.

The National:

The Government will also increase annual health surcharge this year by 66% from £624 to £1,035, which is the fee immigrants pay to use the NHS.

Foreign students will also be banned from bringing family members with them, unless they are research-based postgraduate degrees.

READ MORE: Tory minister says asylum seekers are 'breaking into our country'

Cleverly added: “We have also stopped international students from switching out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed.”

Trade unionists have sounded the alarm that the changes to social care worker visas would discourage the foreign women “propping up” the sector because they will not be able to bring their families with them.

The National:

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea (above) told the BBC’s World at One: “What you’re saying to people, and remember this is a predominantly female workforce, so we’re basically saying you’re only allowed to come here but you can’t bring any children.

“And to those who are already here, who do have dependents when they come to renew their visa, presumably they will be told you have to send your children back again.”

She warned this would lead to staff shortages in an already stretched sector.

READ MORE: Stephen Flynn: Scotland's needs on immigration 'ignored' by Labour and Tories

“This will be an utter disaster because what they’re doing is basically sending out a really strong message to those migrant workers who are basically propping up the care sector and indeed in many cases the health sector and saying you’re not welcome here,” she added.

The organisation which represents NHS trusts in England called the proposals “deeply concerning”.

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: “With over 120,000 staff shortages in the NHS and over 150,000 in social care, measures that deter people from joining these professions are deeply concerning.”

But she said “more must also be done” to train and recruit a sustainable workforce of people from Britain.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “There can be no rational justification for this. Both public and private sector badly need migrant workers. Our communities are enriched by their presence. Economic and cultural vandalism.”

The Prime Minister's spokesperson described the package of measures announced in the Commons on Monday were the "biggest clampdown on legal migration ever".

It comes amid fierce Tory infighting as the latest figures showed record levels of net migration to the UK, with Rishi Sunak keen to keep MPs onside ahead of the coming General Election.