As expected, the Queen’s Speech laying out Theresa May’s legislative agenda for her minority government was very thin. Just over a year ago the social work profession was taken by surprise by the inclusion of the controversial exemption clauses in the Draft Children and Social Work Bill which set in motion an unprecedented mobilization of BASW members who successfully lobbied the government as part of a sector-wide coalition. Nothing so controversial or surprising was announced this time although more information about the details in forthcoming bills will come out in the next few weeks and months. Despite the lack of surprises there is plenty for social workers to pay attention to. Over the next eighteen months the following pieces of legislation will be included in BASW’s campaigning in Parliament as we strive to act as a critical friend to the ministers and civil servants who will need a great deal of feedback from the profession if positive outcomes are to be achieved:
Domestic Violence Bill – This is absolutely to be welcomed but very little detail has so far emerged as to the substance of the new legislation. The Government has said the Draft Bill will create a dedicated Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner for England as well as an ASBO-style order for perpetrators and new powers for judges to take into consideration any long-term effects on the children of victims or perpetrators during sentencing.
Mental Health Reform – The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Social Work recommended to the Government almost a year ago that a new Mental Health Act be drafted considering the outdated and inadequate legal provisions available which do not effectively take into account the full human rights context. Unfortunately, and despite hints that such a bill would be announced, the Government has today promised only to review current legislation and publish findings. As part of the on-going work of the APPG, BASW will be submitting its own plans for a new Act to the Government in due course.
Immigration Bill – This new bill will bring existing immigration rules set by the EU into British law, ending freedom of movement. New immigration rules for EU citizens will have to be included. The sparse detail currently on offer does not mention changes to other immigration rules which currently apply to non-EU citizens, however work will have to be done to ensure that human rights and an ethical approach are at the heart of any new immigration legislation, especially with reference to asylum seekers of all ages.
A Green Paper on social care is still expected in the near future, as anticipated before the Conservative’s manifesto pledge that ended in a pivotal U-turn, BASW will be following this process very closely and feeding into the debate.
As well as reacting to these and other proposals by the Government, BASW will continue to pursue the aims laid out in our General Election Manifesto for Social work, pushing to include those policy asks in the relevant new pieces of legislation. The manifesto can still be seen on the BASW website and we continue to urge members to make sure their Members of Parliament read it: http://cdn.basw.co.uk/upload/basw_93101-7.pdf