The Health and Social Care Bill received royal assent last week
after last minute government concessions ensured the bill’s passage
through parliament before its dissolution for a June General
Following the government’s climbdown on compulsory care trusts
and assurances on the governance and accountability arrangements of
voluntary care trusts, the bill’s only potential stumbling block
was the plan to scrap community health councils (CHCs) in
As time ran out, health secretary Alan Milburn was forced to
drop clauses relating to the abolition of CHCs or face losing the
However, a spokesperson for Milburn said that the government
remained committed to driving through its plan to scrap CHCs if
they win the election.
In a tight schedule before parliament was dissolved, seven bills
were dropped including the Adoption and Children Bill.
Care leavers and other young people at risk of homelessness or
already homeless also lost out with the decision to drop the Homes
Bill. The bill would have included statutory proposals for local
authorities to strengthen the protection and duty owed to those who
are unintentionally homeless and in priority need, including care
leavers and ex-offenders.
Welsh children fared better, with the Children’s Commissioner
for Wales Bill receiving royal assent. The commissioner’s primary
responsibility will be to safeguard and promote children’s rights
and welfare. He will be able to review the actions of other
individuals and bodies and examine the cases of particular
children, as well as monitor arrangements for complaints,
whistle-blowing and advocacy.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Rights in Education
Bill, giving disabled children and students the right to education
in mainstream schools and colleges, also received royal assent.
It will amend the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 by placing
new duties on schools and colleges not to treat disabled pupils
less favourably and to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled
pupils are not put at a substantial disadvantage compared with
Chairperson of the Disability Rights Commission Bert Massie
welcomed the potential of the “historic piece of legislation” to
make a huge difference to the lives of disabled people. “For far
too long the employment prospects of many disabled people have been
restricted because of failures in the education system,” he
Meanwhile, benefit cheats and persistent fraudsters will be
tackled under the Social Security Fraud Act. Under this new piece
of legislation, private and public sector organisations will have
to provide information on individuals suspected of benefit fraud.
People convicted twice of a benefit offence within a three-year
period will have their benefit withdrawn or reduced.
Young offenders also face a crackdown under the new Criminal
Justice and Police Act, which will extend child curfews to older
children and allow the police to set up child curfew schemes. It
will also extend the criteria for secure remands of persistent
juvenile offenders and introduce powers to tag juveniles on