Last week saw the beginning of the new session of parliament, with Her Majesty The Queen conducting the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday. The State Opening marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and the Queen's Speech sets out the Government's agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation. On Thursday, I got to speak in the third day of debate which was an opportunity to give my thoughts on the speech and the ways in which the policies announced will benefit Teignbridge and the wider South West.
The speech referenced the forthcoming Health & Social Care Bill which had already been announced. The proposed package of legislation to deliver integrated world-class health and care is extremely welcome, but I believe that a number of issues have been missed. Firstly, I believe that mental health clearly must have parity of esteem with physical health, something that must be reflected in the new ICS structures. I will be looking to get these measures included in the Bill, be it through conversations with Ministers or amendments.
Furthermore, the passing mention of social care was very welcome, but it is important to remember that it is not just about money, but about the system itself and placing it on an equal footing with health care. Social care has for too long been the Cinderella service and that must change. Alongside a proper funding model, there must be a sustainable career structure under which nurses are trained across health and social care and are able to transfer between different settings throughout their career, with the pay of both being equal, transparent, and fair.
I was pleased to see the announcement of a draft Victims Bill that will create new rights for the victims of crime, including new standards on support offered to sexual and domestic abuse victims which is very much a step in the right direction. What I believe needs further consideration in the Bill is the role played by healthcare professionals.
At the moment the first port of call for victims is very often the police, but the reality is that whilst 80% of female domestic abuse victims say they would tell a health practitioner, only 20% say they would tell the police. Sometimes, seeing a health practitioner is the only opportunity a victim will have to disclose abuse. Health practitioners need to be aware of the signs of domestic abuse and then have the tools to signpost victims to support. We’re incredibly fortunate here in Devon to have, as far as I’m aware, the only NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Lead in the country. Funding for such roles should be provided to every CCG so that this can be replicated across the country.
Amongst other things, the speech also included plans to unite and level up the country including through the Prime Minister’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, that will ensure everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives. I certainly welcome the ambition behind this and very much hope it can be used to retrain and upskill the local community.
I robustly support the agenda for national recovery that the Government have set out, but in that recovery, they must not forget us here in the south-west. As we move forwards post-pandemic, we need to seize the opportunity to reinvigorate our community, upskill the population, provide a brighter future for the next generation and create greater more opportunity for everybody.
Finally, welcome back to all the businesses finally being allowed to re-open this week!
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