Queen’s Speech – what does it mean for us?

We look at this year’s Queen’s Speech and how it affects Deaf and Disabled People

The Queen’s Speech on 14 October outlined the Government’s plans for the coming year.

Svetlana Kotova, our Director of Campaigns and Justice reported to Disability News Service: “This Queen’s speech is a bad news for disabled people who have been hardest hit by austerity.  There is nothing in it to make our lives better. Proposals for social care and mental health are not the radical change that we need, but are just patching up an already broken system which breaches our human rights and does not comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The government has been promising to reform social care for years and it looks like their main concern is cost, not the radical rethinking of the system and setting up a service that would promote our right to independent living.”

Below we give a summary and comment on areas of the speech likely to affect Deaf and Disabled People:

Social care and support

  • “…proposals to reform adult social care in England to ensure dignity in old age” will be brought forward. The proposals will “fix the crisis in adult social care”.
  • Comment: unfortunately there is little likelihood that that these social care proposals will bring about a National Independent Living Support Service that DDPOs are calling for.

Mental health law

  • “Reform the Mental Health Act to improve respect for, and care of, those receiving treatment” and ensure “patients are not detained any more than is absolutely”. Actions include:
    • A white paper published by the end of this year setting out the government’s response to the review of the Act.
    • Reforms will follow the white paper, to ensure that patients receive “better care and have a much greater say in that care” and changes to the process of detention including the ability for patients to challenge detention.
  • Comment: The Mental Health Act with or without these reforms is likely to continue to breach the UNCRPD as the UN Committee has said that all institutionalised care should be ended and “detention on the basis of disability” is prohibited.

Voting

  • Proposals to make it easier for disabled voters to vote at polling stations by removing potential barriers will be put forward. In practical terms this means legislation to allow “a wider range of people (for example, carers who would not be entitled to vote in the election) to be able to assist disabled voters in a ‘companion’ role.”

Victims of crime

  • “Proposals will be brought forward to ensure that victims receive the support they need and the justice they deserve.” This involves:
    • A new Victims’ Law to be consulted on early in 2020.
    • A revised Victims’ Code to set out the minimum level of service will be published in early 2020.
    • Enhanced protections for victims of domestic abuse.
    • Explore increasing the powers of the Victims’ Commissioner so that they can better hold Government to account.
    • Violent crime and strengthening the criminal justice system.
  • Tackle repeat and prolific offenders through robust community orders.
  • Comment: It is possible that this measure could support victims of disability hate crime.

Environment

  • “Environmental principles will be enshrined in law”. This includes introducing measures “to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution….”
  • Comment: measures to improve air quality, especially in London will be welcomed by people with breathing difficulties, but tackling plastic pollution may raise concerns about banning of plastic straws.

Building safety standards legislation

  • New regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products regulations, ensuring residents have a stronger voice in the system will be brought forward.
  • Comment: concerns about fires spreading quickly due cladding on the outside of tower blocks continue and the safety or lack of it of the “stay put” policy versus the evacuation of residents in buildings which were not build with this in mind are worrying issues for Disabled residents.

The Queen’s speech is available at: https://bit.ly/2MdSz7B
The briefing notes are available at: https://bit.ly/2IUbanf