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The Queen’s Speech: What should social workers be aware of?

Kerri Prince, Public and Political Affairs Lead, provides an update from Westminster

Every year, the monarch (or their representative) opens Parliament and gives a speech about what legislative plans the Government have.

This year was no different - and despite Prince Charles indicating that the Government will lay legislation not in his speech, we did get a preview of what to expect over the next 12 months.

We do not have the detail of the legislation yet, but we will update members as more information comes to light.

Devolved powers means that some of these Bills will apply to just England, some to England and Wales, and some to the whole UK. This will be clarified when each Bill is published, and the remit next to each Bill title may change. Under the Barnett formula, all money that is spent on services in England by the UK Government will result in funding for the devolved nations.

Bill of Rights (UK-wide)

We know that this Government is not happy with the Human Rights Act and they carried out a consultation earlier this year on a new ‘Bill of Rights’.

BASW responded to this consultation and stressed that the Human Rights Act did not need changing. But Government consultations are often just for show, and the Government will plough on regardless.

This Government – and Theresa May’s Government before it – suffered a number of defeats in the courts, so they are trying to change the relationship between the courts and Parliament so that courts can’t rule Ministers actions as unlawful.

We can expect that much of the intention behind this Bill is preventing people ‘escaping deportation’ as this was a repeat theme in the consultation. There is also an attempt to ‘defend free speech’ through this legislation, but with no clarity to explain how free speech isn’t already being defended

Brexit Freedom Bill (UK-wide)

A sensationalist Bill title if it is truly to be called this in law, but this illustrates the perspective that the Government has. European Union legislation will continue to be overturned, and this Bill will mean that there doesn’t have to be a specific Commons vote on them. Already, concerns have been raised that this empowers Ministers and bypasses the scrutiny function of Parliament.

Mental Health Act Reform Bill (England and Wales)

A consultation on this has already been completed, so I expect we may see this piece of legislation sooner rather than later. BASW will be looking for reform that creates more freedoms, equality and investment in mental health community resources.

Higher Education Bill (England)

This is designed to introduce the Lifelong Loan Entitlement allowing people to retrain at any point. It will give people a loan equivalent to four years of education which can be used over their lifetime for a range of studies, including short and technical courses. If done correctly, this could open up careers, allowing people to pursue their passions and goals in life.  It will also set up a minimum qualification requirement on student in England to be able to get a student loan, as well as an attempt to tackle ‘low quality courses’.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (UK-wide)

We hear a lot about ‘levelling-up’, but we don’t see much of it happening. This bill would create a legal duty on the Government to report its progress in closing inequality between different parts of the UK, and give local leaders more powers.

Public Order Bill (England and Wales)

This seems to be a continuation of the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill that we campaigned against last year. It will aim to prevent “highly disruptive tactics used by protest groups”. It seems to be another Bill aimed at curbing visible public dissent.

Schools Bill (England)

This will introduce compulsory attendance registers for schools in England. The detail will be important.

Conversion Therapy Bill (England and Wales)

This long-awaited piece of legislation doesn’t go far enough. It will make it a criminal offence to carry out non-physical gay conversion therapies, and will strengthen existing law to ban violent conversion therapy. It will apply to under-18s, but only to over 18s who are forced into it.  The Bill is not expected to cover transgender conversion therapy.

Draft Victims Bill (England and Wales)

This is intended to enshrine the ‘Victims Code’ in law, and improve support given to victims both in and beyond the criminal justice system.

Modern Slavery Bill (UK-wide)

This will attempt to give law enforcement more tools to prevent modern slavery.

Renters Reform Bill (England)

This Bill will allegedly provide a better deal for renters, including the creation of an Ombudsman for private landlords. It is also expected to abolish no-fault evictions.

Social Housing Regulation Bill (England)

The detail of this Bill will be crucial to see if it’ll help people and tackle poor quality social housing that will have a severely negative impact on people’s wellbeing.

Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) (England and Wales)

This will make it easier for people at the end of their lives to access support and benefits. This is expected to include a change in law for ‘terminal illness’ to be defined as having 12 months to live, rather than the current six months.

Other Bills:

Data Reform Bill

Energy Security Bill

Financial Services and Markets Bill

High-Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

Higher Education Bill

Media Bill

National Security Bill

Online Safety Bill (carried over)

Procurement Bill

Trade Bill

Transport Bill

UK Infrastructure Bank Bill

Draft Audit Reform Bill

Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill

Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill

Draft Protect Duty Bill

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill

Electronic Trade Documents Bill

Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill

Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill

Non-Domestic Rating Bill

Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill