The Queen’s Speech – Wot, no mental health bill or reform of adult social care?
The Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021 laid out a programme of some 30 pieces of legislation. This included a Health and Care Bill with proposals to tackle obesity and improve mental health support. However, despite the references to a new Mental Health Act in the 2020 Queen’s Speech, there was no sign of this in 2021.
Reform of the Mental Health Act came as a bit of a surprise when it was announced by the then Prime Minister Theresa May in October 2017. It was followed up by the review of the current Act by Sir Simon Wessely which reported in December 2018.
But there is no commitment this year. Has it now slipped off the legislative agenda?
Adult social care
Reform of adult social care, particularly the funding regime, has been a long-term political hot topic. Everyone accepts it will be expensive. There also seems little doubt that the issue needs addressing. One would have thought that given the focus on the impact of Covid-19 on care homes, this would have given the Government the opportunity to bring forward concrete proposals, even if some of the funding needed an increase in taxation. Perhaps the fiscal hole is just too big?
Although there is no reference to a specific Bill, the Queen’s Speech does refer to proposals on social care reform being “brought forward”, so at least there is an ongoing commitment to address the topic. What that means remains to be seen.
It does seem like a missed opportunity. Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, has commented:
“This is a missed opportunity. Without the much needed, not to mention heralded, reform it is questionable as to how much longer the sector can be expected to limp on. A sector that supports and employs vast swathes of the population cannot be ignored. We stand ready and willing to help the Government deliver its manifesto commitment, but the Health and Care Bill which has a focus on the NHS, is not the vehicle to deliver this huge shift as it will not produce the system change that is necessary to ensure the future sustainability of the sector”.
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