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Queen’s Speech fails to deliver on social care, democracy, building and employment

12 May 2021

The Queen’s Speech, effectively the Government’s current ‘to do’ list, has failed to deliver on Boris Johnson’s pledge to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all” which he made when he became Prime Minister in July 2019.

Only a passing mention was made of plans to address the social care system. The Prime Minister said that proposals will be brought forward “later in the year”.

A health bill will be implementing planned changes to the structure of NHS England for “a more integrated and  efficient health and care system”.

The Elections Integrity Bill will require voters to show photographic proof of identity when voting in elections. The move has been criticised by MPs from all parties with Tory grandee David Davis claiming it is an “illiberal solution for a non-existent problem”. Just six instances of voter fraud were identified in the last general election.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “This is another hurdle in the democratic process for many Disabled people who will struggle to obtain, remember or produce such ID. If you can’t afford foreign travel or a car, you won’t have passports and driving licences, the main forms of photo ID. It’s effectively a way of excluding those already most marginalised in society from the democratic process. The Government has already removed centralised funding to support Disabled candidates from standing for election. Removing ease of voting for Disabled and poorer citizens is yet another barrier put up against equal participation.”

A planning bill is also being introduced to make it easier to build housing and hospitals. Fazilet Hadi said: “The Government has yet to fully grasp why much stronger M-Regs – the rules which say how accessible properties must be – are needed to create truly lifelong housing which takes into account that Disabled people need practical accessibility, not tickbox accessibility. New-build, affordable modern housing is often small, doesn’t allow for manoeuvrability of wheelchairs and scooters inside, bathrooms are not fit for purpose, and houses built with such adaptations in place from scratch save Councils money down the line, and ensure that all households can accommodate Disabled family members, friends and visitors. A fifth of the UK’s population is Disabled. DR UK, as part of the HoME coalition, is calling for all new builds to be built to much higher accessibility standards. Cutting red tape to allow a rush of new builds which can’t be accessed by 14 million people is ridiculous.”

The lack of an employment bill has been criticised for missing an opportunity to change laws which currently only allow staff to request flexible working, not have a right to flexible working. Fazilet Hadi said: “With lockdown proving to employers once and for all that flexible working benefits both workers and employers, the lack of employment bill keeps Disabled people’s right to work in ways that works for them harder to make a reality. Despite the Equality Act’s insistence that firms must make reasonable adjustments for Disabled people, many still face barriers, including being rejected at interview, on the record, for a lack of skills, but in practice, often for more discriminatory reasons. The lack of employment bill also misses the opportunity to bring into law the need for Disability pay gap monitoring.”

The Online Harms Bill could result in social media platforms which fail to protect people from bullying being down. In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said social media firms have “no excuses” and “must face the consequences” if they fail to remove harmful content, and could face fines of up to £13 billion. Fazilet Hadi said: “This Bill primarily has children in mind, but we are aware of vast amounts of disability discrimination and trolling of Disabled people which takes place online. These are strong words from Government. Time will tell if this is rhetoric or whether we will see results.”