7 November 2023
The King’s Speech appears to do nothing to improve the lives of people with communication and/or swallowing needs.
Today (7 November 2023) , His Majesty The King has set out the Government’s legislative proposals for the year ahead.
The King’s Speech contained two Bills aimed at keeping people safe, the Sentencing Bill and the Victims and Prisoners Bill. Given the prevalence of speech, language and communication needs in these areas, the Bills must be clear in how they will accommodate speech, language and communication needs.
- Victims must have access to accessible written and verbal information if their voices are to be amplified.
- The Sentencing Bill rests on investment in rehabilitation programmes, including speech and language therapy, both in prisons and in the community, to stop the cycle of re-offending, and enable people to access employment opportunities on their release.
The RCSLT will examine the detail to ensure that people’s understanding is taken into account.
Beyond that, we are very disappointed that the Government’s legislative programme appears to do nothing to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the country, including those with communication and/or swallowing needs.
We are particularly disappointed that the Mental Health Bill had been dropped. The speech has raised concerns that any reform related to mental health will have to wait for a future government. The omission of the Mental Health Bill is a significant let down and means that autistic people, people with learning disabilities, and people with other speech, language and communication needs will be denied greater choice and control in their own care and support.
Early this year, we responded to the Government consultation on the draft Mental Health Bill highlighting the importance of delivering improved care and support in the community before people reach crisis point. We also expressed the importance of investing in the entire workforce, including access to speech and language therapists, to meet the extra demand required for care and support over the coming months and years.
We are also concerned about the lack of priority given to children’s education in the King’s Speech, as well as the absence of extending independent prescribing responsibilities, as we are calling for in the #PrescribingNow campaign. It is also very disappointing that there has been no movement on extending to speech and language therapists the ability to undertake mental capacity assessments.
It is also important for the Government to put the identification of, and support for, people who communicate differently or with difficulty at the centre of other Bills and policies designed to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the country. For example, policies to tackle homelessness must recognise that approximately 17% of the homeless population have speech, language and communication needs. Unless this is taken into account, policies designed to improve people’s lives may in fact make them worse.
We stand ready to work with the Government, parliamentarians, other organisations, and our members to ensure relevant Bills have communication front and centre. At the same time, we urge the Government to take immediate non-legislative action to help improve the lives of people with communication and/or swallowing needs to ensure a brighter future for all our citizens.