After months of uncertainty punctuated by terror and tragedy, the Queen’s Speech marked a return to business as usual at Westminster.
But beneath the familiar ritual, it’s clear things aren’t quite as they used to be – and not just because the Queen swapped her crown for a hat.
The Government set out its agenda for the next two years (not the customary 12 months), but as the Conservatives don’t have a majority in the House of Commons, we can’t be sure they’ll win the crucial vote on their programme of legislation in just a few days’ time. Above all, domestic issues, normally front and centre, took a back seat to the enormous challenge of delivering Brexit.
So what does this mean for children and families?
The good news is…
The good news is that children’s mental health is still on the radar. We are also still expecting a Green Paper focused on “helping our youngest and most vulnerable members of society receive the best start in life.” The Government has sensibly committed to focusing on prevention as well as specialist support, recognising that we need to do much better at early intervention. Other key issues facing children were addressed too. There will be a new right to require social media platforms to delete information about young people at the age of 18, and harsher sentences for perpetrators of domestic abuse affecting children.
But now the bad news…children’s social care!
The bad news is that once again children’s social care didn’t get a mention. We know that local services are reaching crisis point, with demand outstripping resource. If we don’t act now, children’s social care will turn into an emergency service, with capacity to step in only at crisis point. (For a complete analysis read our report No Good Options).
Meanwhile vulnerable children, including those at risk of abuse and neglect, and children with disabilities, are missing out on the support they need to stay safe and prepare for a positive future.
But the Government has an opportunity to turn this around. The Conservative manifesto promised a review of support for children in need of help from services. Ministers should think bigger and consider how to transform the social care system, and provide the necessary funding, so that children get the support they need, when they need it and for as long as they need it.
Don’t forget Brexit
And then there’s Brexit. Children didn’t have a vote in the referendum, just as they couldn’t vote in the election. But it could have a profound effect on the society they inherit. So the Government has a special responsibility to make sure they’re consulted – meaningfully – on changes to law and regulation as a result of leaving the EU. And as well as listening to their priorities, the Government must take care to put children’s safety and best interests first.