The Queen’s Speech 2021: Small charity round up

The Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s plans and proposed legislation that they intend to bring through parliament in the months ahead. There was a lot in this one so to save you time reading the whole thing, Public Affairs and National Programme Officer Rachel Cain rounded up the announcements most relevant to small and local charities below.

Charities Bill


"The purpose of the Bill is to address a range of issues in charity law which hamper charities’ day to day activities, by implementing the majority of the recommendations in the Law Commission’s 2017 report ‘Technical Issues in Charity Law’."

This Bill will implement the recommendations of the Law Commission in 2017, which will simplify some technical aspects of charity law. Measures include making it easier for charities to amend their governing document, allowing charities to keep donations up to £120 to be used for similar purposes without contacting the donor when a fundraising campaign fails to meet or exceeds its target, and allowing trustees to make small goodwill payments without contacting the Charity Commission.

 

Dormant assets


"The Dormant Assets Bill will unlock around an additional £880 million for social and environmental initiatives across the UK."

The current dormant assets scheme will be expanded, and changes will be made to allow ministers to set the social and environmental focus of the English portion of funds through secondary legislation, to ‘respond more flexibly to changing social and environmental needs in England’, which the government will have to consult on. This will only apply to England, as Wales and Scotland already have relevant powers.


We’re part of the Community Wealth Fund alliance, which argues for this funding to be directed to the areas that need it most and for decisions to be put in the hands of local communities.

Procurement Bill


"Reform the UK’s public procurement regime, making it quicker, simpler and better able to meet the country’s needs while remaining compliant with our international obligations. This will replace the current regime which was largely transposed from EU procurement directives."

You may remember that a few months ago the Government published a Green Paper on procurement, setting out proposals for how government (national and local) buys and pays for services and goods now that we’ve left the EU. We had significant concerns, which our chief executive Paul Streets shared with a House of Lords committee, about the implications of treating people-focused services, such as domestic abuse support delivered by charities, in the same way as, for example, processes to buy building services or cutlery. The government have said that it would aim to make procurement more accessible to charities and consider social value, which is welcome, but we will continue to advocate to make sure it works in practice for small and local charities and the communities they support.

 

Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill


"The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will ensure we can cut crime, support our police and build confidence in our criminal justice system by reforming bail, and modernising court processes."

This bill has received a lot of attention already, with measures including new powers for police and tougher sentences for violent and sexual offences, and a wide range of charities have already begun to voice their concerns about some of the measures. These include concerns about restrictions on protests and demonstrations, a new criminal offence targeting trespassers which will impact upon Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and concerns from criminal justice charities about the impact on women and on worsening racial inequalities.

 

New Plan for Immigration Legislation


"Measures will be brought forward to establish a fairer immigration system that strengthens the United Kingdom’s borders and deters criminals who facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys."

The new plan for immigration includes significant changes to the asylum system, which many charities are deeply concerned will make it harder for people to claim asylum in the UK. Measures include different rights and status for those seeking asylum depending on how they arrived in the UK, refusing those who haven’t come via an official route or who have travelled through another ‘safe’ country, replacing asylum accommodation with reception centres and potential to move this offshore in future. There are also significant concerns from modern slavery and trafficking charities that the new plans will place victims at increased risk and limit the support available to them. The consultation on the government’s plans only closed five days before the Queen’s Speech, meaning many charities feel their voices haven’t been heard, and this will be a big campaigning focus for many charities in the months ahead. More than 100 charities are already collaborating under #TogetherForRefugees, launching a campaign that calls for a kinder, fairer approach.

 

Levelling up

 

The Government will publish a Levelling Up White Paper later in the year, ‘setting out bold new policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK’, and it was announced earlier in the week that Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, has been appointed as the government’s adviser to lead on this. Here’s what the background notes say about what ‘levelling up’ means:

  • It is about improving living standards and growing the private sector, particularly where it is weak. It is about increasing and spreading opportunity, because while talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. It is about improving health, education and policing, particularly where they are not good enough. It is also about strengthening community and local leadership, restoring pride in place, and improving quality of life in ways that are not just about the economy.
  • Levelling up means creating new good jobs, boosting training and growing productivity in places that have seen economic decline and the loss of industry – not through a one-size-fits-all approach, but nurturing different types of economic growth and building on the different strengths that different places have.


Various funds that were announced previously as part of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda:

  • The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centre and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.
  • The £220 million UK-wide Community Renewal Fund will provide funding for local areas across the UK in 2021-22 to help them prepare for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, in addition to the continued high level of funding from EU structural funds.
  • Through the Towns Fund the Government has confirmed a £1 billion investment in 45 Town Deals across England, which will help local areas to grow their economies, create and sustain local jobs whilst encouraging opportunities to reshape the look and feel of their area.

 

Health


"The Health and Care Bill will lay the foundations for a more integrated and efficient health and care system."

The Health and Care Bill will bring in plans already announced to restructure NHS England, changes to procurement processes, ensuring every area in England is covered by an ICS (Integrated Care System) and new anti-obesity measures. The government will also respond to their recent consultation on the Mental Health Act, bringing forward legislation which it says will address the disproportionate number of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities detained and change the law around how those with learning disabilities or autism are treated when detained. Many charities will want to see any changes backed up with funding for services, particularly given the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

 

Social Care


"We will bring forward proposals for social care reform in 2021 to ensure that every person receives care that provides the dignity and security they deserve."

Many charities are frustrated about the absence of concrete measures on social care in the Queen’s Speech, though the government have said that they will bring forward proposals later in the year.

 

Voting and elections

 

The Electoral Integrity Bill will introduce a requirement for photo ID to be produced for voting in a general election. This will be of huge concern for many, with charities highlighting that this will disproportionately affect young people, older people, disabled people, LBGTQIA+ people and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. We often hear from the charities we work with about the difficulties people face in, for example, opening bank accounts, because they do not have photo ID after experiencing homelessness, domestic abuse, or leaving prison.


The government will also have new powers to decide when a general election is held - the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, allowing the government to choose the date of an election without taking a vote in Parliament.

 

Tackling violence and inequalities

 

Following their recent consultation, the government confirmed they will publish a new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. There will also be a Draft Victims Bill, building on the Victims Code, to bring into law improvements in support for victims of crime. There will also be a bill placing a ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’.


The government also state their intention to bring forward measures ‘to address racial and ethnic disparities’, from considering their response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

 

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