Today saw the State Opening of Parliament more commonly known as The Queen’s Speech.

Normally this is an annual event however the Government has said that this Queen’s Speech will count for two years due to the amount of legislation they need to pass in order to ensure we leave the European Union. In total 8 new Bills were announced to ensure this process happens smoothly. 

Mental Health

The Government has committed to review the Mental Health Act. We had originally thought that there may be a new Bill to replace the old Act, but the background notes to the Queen’s Speech say that the Government will instead ‘begin to consider what further reform of mental health legislation is necessary’.

The review will be wide-ranging and will include how to ensure mental health is a priority for the NHS, how to tackle workplace discrimination on the grounds of mental health, and how the Government will ‘continue to invest in new and better services across the whole spectrum of mental health conditions’.

Mental health provision is a huge issue for children and adults on the autism spectrum. For example, research suggests that more than 70% of children on the autism spectrum develop mental health problems. It’s important that all autistic people are able to get good mental health support when they need it. We will work with the Government as it conducts its review to ensure that any reforms work for people on the autism spectrum.

Social Care

The Queen’s Speech confirmed that there will be a Green Paper on social care which ‘will bring forward proposals’ on how it will be funded. We have no further details on these proposals and it’s notable that a number of Conservative manifesto proposals were not mentioned.

Our charity is a member of the Care and Support Alliance which has been campaigning for a sustainable social care funding settlement for years. Their statement on the Queen’s Speech highlighted that there have been a number of consultations and commissions in the past two decades, but none have resulted in a sustainable solution to the funding gap in social care.

We will continue working with the Care and Support Alliance to monitor the new proposals and ensure that people on the autism spectrum get the care they need.

Autism Employment Gap

The Government has pledged to halve the disability employment gap by getting another million disabled people in work. However, our research from last year suggests that the autism employment gap is even wider than the disability employment gap with just 16% of people on the spectrum in a full-time job. 

Our charity recently contributed to a Government consultation on halving the gap which we were told would lead to what’s termed a ‘White Paper’ later this year.

Whilst we’ve no reason to believe this work will stop, it was a little disappointing that it wasn’t mentioned in the Queen’s Speech as a number of other non-legislative reviews (like mental health) and proposals were. Our charity is due to the meet the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work soon where we will ask for assurances that this much needed work will continue.