Today’s Queen’s Speech will be the last under the Coalition and first under a fixed term Parliament. Speculation about the contents of the speech this year has been about whether its contents can give the Coalition enough energy to last the course. But what will the speech mean for disabled people?
This year the speculation surrounding the Queen’s Speech has been about how ‘light’ it will be in terms of proposed legislation. Whatever is included we can expect Wednesday’s speech to contain proposals that aim to capture the electorate’s imagination before the fast approaching General Election.
From the trickles of announcement made throughout the last year – as well as in the press over the past week – we know about a few of them. As ever, Scope will be watching out for what the announcement means for disabled people and for Scope.
Here are four things that we will be watching out for.
1. Tax free childcare
In last year’s Budget the Government announced that it will introduce Tax-free Childcare for working parents in 2015. Under the scheme, eligible families would be entitled to a 20% discount on their annual childcare costs, up to a limit of £10,000 per child. A Bill to introduce this is expected in the Queen’s Speech.
Government support for childcare costs is welcome: families with disabled children tell us that childcare costs are a key barrier to work.
But it is likely that some disabled children will miss out on Tax-free Childcare in the current proposals. This is because parents of disabled children would not be able to use such a scheme if they wanted to buy child care that is registered with the CQC and not with Ofsted. This includes domiciliary care or short breaks.
This would be a major omission that would exclude the parents of disabled children from help with the cost of childcare – which can often be higher for disabled children.
We will be keeping a close eye on the proposals and will continue to push Government to make sure that all families with disabled children can benefit from any new Bill.
2. Regulation of Health and Social care professionals
Social Care reform has been a huge priority of the Coalition. The Care Bill – now Care Act – was included in the past two Queen’s Speeches. And care could be included yet again.
The Government has hinted that they could create consistency in the regulation of health and social care professionals through a better framework for registration, standards and professional development.
Well regulated, motivated social care professionals are crucial in delivering high quality care for disabled people, and Scope would welcome any moves by Government to improve this. But we will continue to remind Government that although this is crucial, whilst the social care system remains chronically underfunded disabled people who need social care will still lose out on the support they need to live their lives.
3. Social Finance
The Coalition has made social investment a priority over the past 4 years. In 2012 Scope became one of the first UK charities to enter capital markets with its listed bond programme, and we have supported the Government in their work in this area.
This Queen’s Speech is expected to include legislation that focuses on the legal framework in which charities operate in the area of social finance, specifically on improving the administrative burdens and technical problems. We’ll be watching to see what this means for Scope.
4. Welfare reform
The final year of the Coalition will see many of the Government’s welfare reform measures continue to come into effect. From the roll out of the new Personal Independence Payment to changes in housing benefits, many of these changes will impact upon disabled people.
We’ll be watching out for the Speech to include anything specific on welfare reform – and what this could mean for disabled people.