BASW responds to the Queen’s Speech
The second Queen’s Speech in three months reveals Government's intentions...
Despite the inclusion of a bill to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, it is highly likely that this Parliament will last four to five years so the contents of today’s Queen’s Speech will lay out what we can expect during this time.
For BASW this is a period to continue to argue for the rights of social workers and service users in legislation.
Recently we put forward a Social Work Manifesto to outline our priorities for public and political affairs and to make it clear to the Government and to the opposition parties of our campaign intentions.
The full manifesto can be read here.
Today’s speech fell short of our asks on several levels but there were also glimpses of upcoming legislation to be welcomed...
1. Invest in the social work recruitment, education, professional development and retention initiatives we need for the next decade
Arguably, a bill to enshrine in law the NHS’s multi-year funding settlement could spell out good news for social workers employed by the NHS, funding certainty might result in greater job security for example.
We will push for the new NHS visa to extend to social workers as a sub-category of “health professionals” and the proposed points-based immigration system is another bill on which BASW will work to make sure that social workers are included in the skilled category.
A commitment has also been made today to invest in public services more broadly.
2. Promote the role of social workers in multi-professional, integrated health and care
Integration of health and social care was the stated policy of the last two Governments, it remains to be seen whether this commitment will be taken forward by this one.
3. Tackle poor working conditions and unfeasibly high workloads of social workers
There was nothing relevant to this point today, nor was there any obvious nod towards working conditions for public sector workers in the manifesto, except for possible measures to increase wellbeing.
4. Support and invest in social work practice that promotes rights, dignity, self-determination and the potential of all children, adults and communities
Reform of the Mental Health Act is long-awaited and BASW looks forward to discussing the recommendations of the All Part Parliamentary Group on Social Work with ministers to ensure that the social model is properly integrated in legislation.
5. End austerity in public services: invest in social care and reform Universal Credit
Proposals to reform and fund social care remain vague. We agree with the Government that the social care system should provide everyone with the dignity and security they deserve. As per their manifesto they have included the proviso that no one should have to sell their home to pay for social care.
They have suggested they will move forward with efforts to seek cross-party consensus; this is very welcome but could also mean significant delays to solving an ever-more-urgent problem.
Measures to help support working families and increased per pupil funding for schools are welcome also but do not look like a meaningful end to austerity.
6. Roll back wasteful privatisation and profit driven models in health and social care
Despite a manifesto pledge to do something around NHS contracts, this has not been announced today.
7. Resolve the UK-wide homelessness emergency
Surprisingly few, given cross-party acknowledgment of the severity of the housing crisis, measures were announced on housing.
Bills to end no fault eviction and bring in other protections for renters are good to see, as are building safety plans but any efforts to resolve homelessness will involve primary legislation aimed at a rapid increase in home-building and investment in preventative services.
8. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, protect the peace in Northern Ireland and the human rights legislation that protects all citizens
The Government has committed to carrying out its mandate to “Get Brexit Done” and plans to go through with Prime Minister Johnson’s deal which involves a form of border in the Irish Sea and the regulatory divergence of Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
This is a threat to peace, and we hope that efforts to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly will mitigate any moves towards violence.
It is still unclear whether the Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission will be tasked with developing new human rights legislation to replace the EHRC but Ministers have been tasked with promoting freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law as well as developing a foreign sanctions regime that would directly address human rights abuses.
On the other hand, a bill to substantially increase surveillance capabilities has also been announced.