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The speech will announce the main bills that will form the legislative programme for the 2014-15 session of parliament and the last Queen’s speech before the 7 May 2015 general election.
It is likely that the government will use this final parliamentary session to legislate on a number of issues that concern the children and young people we work with:
Following a targeted consultation in October 2013, which we responded to, the government has committed to providing legislation to update current child neglect laws, making emotional neglect a criminal offence. We know from the work of our projects, children’s centres and children’s subjective wellbeing that child neglect does not stop at physical abuse. Specifically, it does not cover emotional harm done to children, which can be just as damaging and have serious and negative long-term effects.
We have also signed up to a joint response to the Department of Health consultation on creating a new criminal offence of ill-treatment or wilful neglect with Action for Children, Barnardo’s and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
We are expecting a bill on Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) following the announcement by the Treasury in 2013 when it published plans for introducing a TFC scheme. The government is currently working on major reform of the way in which parents receive financial support for childcare, including a plan to introduce a TFC scheme to replace employer supported childcare vouchers.
Lower income parents who receive Universal Credit will not be eligible to collect TFC as they will receive a childcare component of Universal Credit instead. We want to make sure that these two systems will work together as effectively as possible to provide a simple system of support with childcare costs.
In December 2013, the Home Office published a Draft Modern Slavery Bill. This focused on combining existing human trafficking and slavery offences to make the options available to law enforcement simpler and clearer to administer and operate. We are expecting an updated bill to be published as part of the Queen’s speech.
We have given written and oral evidence to the bill committee. This included an added cost analysis of guardianship for unaccompanied children with Unicef. We will be launching a joint-report which further explores the cost benefits of guardianship with Unicef in late June.
Children we work with, who come to this country often fleeing war and oppression, can struggle to understand our complex legal, welfare and immigration systems. We welcome the Bill’s new provision for guardians to be allocated to all trafficked children, but throughout the draft Bill have called for independent guardians to be chosen for all unaccompanied children.
In the run up to the Queen’s speech, we will be publishing an analysis of the last three Queen’s speeches and what they have meant for children, as well as a piece detailing what we think should be in the Queen’s speech that would help improve children’s lives.