Sense’s response to the King’s Speech

It’s not often that the Sense public affairs team watch TV at work, but today is one exception. True, what we were watching wasn’t likely to win any Oscars. Yet the King’s Speech – which sets out the Government’s plans for the laws it wants to introduce – could still affect us all.

What was in the King’s Speech?

New laws on sentencing, an animal welfare bill, an independent football regulator… As you might have guessed from the headlines, the government didn’t announce much today that would have a direct impact on disabled people.

Having said that, hidden away in the speech there was a reference to the government bringing forward “proposals … to reform welfare and support more people into work.”

Sense’s research has found that half of jobseekers with complex disabilities don’t feel that they had the support and equipment the need to look for week. So we agree that the Department for Work and Pensions should do more to support people who are looking for work.

Sadly, we know from previous experience that welfare reform doesn’t always lead to more support for disabled people.

Although we can’t be certain, it’s likely that the Government is referring to its proposals to make the Work Capability Assessment stricter. As we said in our response to the government’s consultation, we strongly oppose these plans.

What was missing?

While the King’s Speech promised a transformation of the “long-term workforce of the National Health Service”, the government made no such promise for social care.

Yet the workforce crisis in social care means too many disabled people are missing out on the care and support they need to lead independent lives. Almost a third of people with complex disabilities have been affected by shortages of care staff in the past year, according to recent Sense research.

It’s vital that the government introduces a workforce strategy for social care as soon as possible. This should be backed up by funding to enable providers to improve the pay they offer to care workers.

What next?

We wish that there had been more for disabled people in the King’s Speech. But it’s important to remember that the King’s Speech only sets out the government’s plan for measures that require legislation.

Many of things Sense is calling for could be introduced without new laws, so we wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be included in the King’s Speech.

The upcoming Autumn Statement, on the other hand, outlines the government’s spending commitments. That is when we’ll hear more about how the government will – or won’t – support disabled people to lead independent and meaningful lives.

And with our new research finding that 70% of people with complex disabilities are worried about how they will cope financially this winter, we’ll be engaging with politicians to make sure they offer disabled people the right support – and holding the government to account if they do not.

Get in touch

If you are an MP, peer or from government and would like more information about the work of Sense and how you could be involved locally and nationally contact the team on [email protected].

If you are a researcher, or would like to know more about our policy research work please contact [email protected]

We are available 24/7 for media interviews, comment and information. Contact [email protected] or call 0203 833 0611.