The Queen’s Speech – what does it mean for Deaf and Disabled people?

On 21st June the Queen delivered her speech outlining the government’s programme of legislation and measures for the next two years. Below we have given an outline of areas of particular interest to Deaf and Disabled people.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

Photo: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Queen’s speech 21 June 2017

The Queen delivered her speech outlining the government’s programme of legislation and measures for the next two years.

Below we have given an outline of areas of particular interest to Deaf and Disabled people. The information is based on a parliamentary briefing on the Queen’s Speech, which is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/queens-speech-2017-background-briefing-notes. This briefing gives more detail than the Queen’s speech, which is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/queens-speech-2017

Some measures are non-legislative, so will not involve a change in the law, while others are draft Bills, which will debated and voted on in parliament before they can pass into law.  We have included a quote from the Queen’s speech under most headings.

Social care (a non-legislative measure)

“My Ministers will work to improve social care and will bring forward proposals for consultation.”

The consultation will set out options to ‘improve the social care system’ and put it on ‘a more secure financial footing’.  The government says ‘further reform is required to ensure that the system is prepared to meet the challenges of the increasing numbers of over 75s’.

Mental health reform (a non-legislative measure)

“My Government will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England.”

According to the government reform is needed because the Mental Health Act 1983 has not been fully updated for 34 years, although the Mental Health Act 2007 made changes.  The government will consider what further reform is needed including how the Act is implemented on the ground.  The government also intends that new policy will ensure that people with mental health ‘problems’ can ‘live lives free from discrimination’.

The government’s considerations will include:

  • looking at why rates of detention are increasing and take the necessary action to improve service responses;
  • examine the disproportionate number of those from certain ethnic backgrounds, in particular black people, who are detained under the Act;
  • review the use of Community Treatment Orders;

Making mental health a priority in the NHS (non-legislative measures)

‘The Government will continue to invest in new and better services across the whole spectrum of mental health conditions.”

There will be improvements in early intervention, investment in community services and access to 24/7 crisis care support both in the community and in A&E will be expanded. A Green Paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health will be published.

Tackling the Gender Pay Gap and Discrimination (non-legislative measures)

“My Government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.”

There are measures outlined under ‘disability’, race, faith, LGB&T Equality.  We have just provided information on the ‘disability’ measures below:

Disability

The government are promoting the use of social enterprises which support disabled people, through increasing the use of the Social Value Act 2012 in central government procurement, and through the development of the wider Industrial Strategy.

There is also mention of ‘disability sector champions’ who aim to encourage businesses to make their accessibility information prominent and share best practice, using the motto ‘Disability Visibility’.

Schools and Technical Education

“My Government will continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded. My Ministers will work to ensure people have the skills they need for the high skilled, high-wage jobs of the future, including through a major reform of technical education.”

Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill

“Legislation will be brought forward to protect the victims of domestic violence and abuse.”

The main benefits of the Bill would be:

  • To protect victims of domestic violence and abuse.
  • To give the justice system greater guidance and clarity about the devastating impact of domestic violence and abuse on families.

Elements of the Bill include:

  • Establish a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner, to stand up for victims and survivors.
  • Define domestic abuse in law to underpin all other measures in the Bill.

Courts Bill

“Legislation will also be introduced to modernise the courts system”

The purpose of the Bill is to:

  • Reform our courts and tribunal system to improve access to justice, making better use of technology and modernising working practices.

One of the main elements of the Bill is:

  • To put an end to the direct cross examination of domestic violence victims by their alleged perpetrators in the family courts and extend the use of virtual hearings, which will allow victims to participate in trials without having to meet their alleged assailant face-to-face.

Draft Patient Safety Bill

The purpose of the Bill is to:

Improve how the NHS investigates and learns from mistakes by establishing an independent Health Service Safety Investigation Body.

One of the aims of the Bill is to encourage staff and other participants to share information freely with the Health Service Safety Investigation Body by prohibiting the disclosure of information held in connection with its safety investigations, creating a ‘safe space’ for staff. 

Other items of interest

Housing

“Proposals will be brought forward to […] help ensure more homes are built.”

The government says not enough homes have been built for generations. More homes in the ‘right places’ need to be built to ‘ensure the housing market works for all parts of our community.’   This will help ordinary working families buy an affordable home and will bring the cost of renting down.

Independent Public Advocate  

“To support victims, my Government will take forward measures to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.”

Bills in other areas:

27 Bills and draft Bills were announced with several of them were focused on ‘Delivering Brexit’.   There were also Bills under the following areas:

  • Building a stronger economy
  • Making our country fairer
  • Making Our country safer and more united

More information is available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/queens-speech-2017-background-briefing-notes

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/queens-speech-2017

Inclusion London Comments

Several of the proposals in the Conservative party’s manifesto we not in the Queen’s Speech for instance:

  • The unpopular manifesto proposal to take a family home into account in the means-testing process regarding social care costs is not in the Queen’s speech. Instead a consultation will take place. It is disappointing that there is no mention of Disabled people in the Queens Speech or in the briefing paper regarding social care, only ‘the ageing population and ‘the increasing numbers of over 75s’ are mentioned. Disabled people are only mentioned under promises to tackle discrimination.
  • It is a relief that proposals to increase the number of grammar schools are not included as this would have been a detrimental move away from inclusive education. Also there is no mention of axing of universally free school meals for pupils in the first three years of primary school.
  • It was disappointing that the Manifesto promise to review and amend regulations to improve disabled access to licensed premises, parking and housing were absent from the Queen’s speech. Also there is no mention of the need for accessible housing
  • We are pleased that there were no proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights
  • No mention of plans to abolish the serious fraud office
  • No proposals to lift the ban on Fox hunting

Also there is no mention of legislation to dismantle the Work Capability Assessment despite Minister for disabled people, Penny Mordaunt announcement at a disability hustings event in Westminster (see https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/election-2017-mordaunt-dodges-questions-over-misleading-wca-pledge/)