“My government will legislate in the interests of everyone in our country... giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged.”

So began this year’s Queen’s Speech, which sets out the Government’s proposals for the laws it will introduce over the next year.  What could the speech mean for those with Spinal Cord Injury, and disabled people more widely?

As highlighted by our previous blog posts, Aspire believes that ending the huge shortfall in accessible housing should be a key priority for the new Government.  We are disappointed, therefore to see that the Government’s housing policy does not reflect this.  The main focus of their policy over the next year will be the extension of Right to Buy.  Quite apart from missing an opportunity to focus on building more accessible homes, the selling off of social properties is likely to reduce the insufficient number of homes currently available to wheelchair users.  Aspire’s work through our Housing Programme demonstrates that many people who sustain spinal cord injuries end up living in social or housing association properties.  Often, this is because these properties are either already adapted or easier to adapt than other kinds of accommodation.  Although the Minister for Local Government and Communities, Greg Clarke, has promised that each home sold will be replaced by a new property, since 2012 only one in ten houses sold through Right to Buy has been replaced.  Aspire is concerned that this pattern could continue, and an already insufficient housing stock become even more lacking.

Aspire would like to see plans to increase home ownership matched by a house-building programme that increases the availability of affordable, accessible housing in the UK too.

Aspire welcomes the Government’s plan to work towards full employment, and is keen to know how the Conservatives plan to fulfil their manifesto pledge to halve the disability employment gap.  Many of the individuals Aspire works with through our Independent Living or Housing Programmes have returned to work, but there are others who have not been able to secure appropriate employment after injury.  As the Government’s plans take a firmer shape over the coming months, Aspire will campaign to ensure that efforts to provide jobs include disabled people.

The British Bill of Rights:
A proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act, so hotly anticipated by journalists, was missing from the Queen’s Speech. However, plans were announced to bring forward a “British Bill of Rights”, suggesting that an attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act is still on the table.

The Human Rights Act provides important protections for disabled people. Without details of the differences between the Act and a “British Bill of Rights”, it is difficult to predict the effect of a change in favour of a British Bill of Rights.  Aspire will monitor developments on this issue closely, and ,where necessary, advocate to ensure that people with Spinal Cord Injury are afforded all the rights due to them.

Aspire is keen to know what many of the pledges made in today’s speech will mean in practice. As these plans develop, Aspire will campaign to ensure that opportunities are increased for everyone, as promised. In particular, Aspire would like to see the Government seek to increase not just opportunities for home ownership but opportunities for everyone to have a home that is suited to their needs.