What does the Queen’s speech mean for social entrepreneurs?

The news from Westminster has long been frustrating for those running social businesses – but there may be opportunities too. UnLtd's senior policy officer Laura Kekuti decodes the latest developments and explores what they mean for social entrepreneurs

At a time when it feels like a month’s worth of political events are happening in just a matter of days, this week began with the Queen delivering her speech on Monday morning.

The Queen's speech is not actually written by the monarch herself, but by ministers. It provides the government with an opportunity to highlight its upcoming priorities, and is part of the State Opening of Parliament ceremony, which marks the start of the parliamentary year. Monday's speech outlined 26 bills, with over one-third of those relating to new arrangements after departure from the EU.

New priorities – but what about those undelivered promises?

The ‘shopping list’ has announced a number of new bills around aviation, science and railway reform. But before focusing on new priorities, wouldn’t it be time to address those undelivered promises Conservative governments have made in the last few years?

There’s a general theme in recent years of the Conservatives announcing important initiatives for social entrepreneurs and wider society, such as the future of EU funding (the so-called UK Shared Prosperity Fund), the Social Care Green Paper, and social value procurement in government consultation, yet failing to deliver meaningful change as a result. The only main exception is the Civil Society Strategy, published last summer – although even that included several initiatives that have not yet been delivered. The government’s response to the social value procurement consultation was due last month, and the Social Care Green Paper is now two years overdue.

The government’s response to the social value procurement consultation was due last month, and the Social Care Green Paper is now two years overdue

We’d like to see much-needed progress on these initiatives that we know will unlock valuable opportunities for social entrepreneurs.

This Queen’s Speech has seen yet another commitment to addressing adult social care. It has announced a consultation on more funding for councils, as well as bringing forward substantive proposals to fix the crisis to give everyone the dignity and security they deserve. We are very much looking forward to seeing these proposals and to seeing whether social entrepreneurs (who are already delivering innovative, cost-effective and personalised way of social care) are featured in it. 

The Queen’s speech didn't mention the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, but the official government briefing does include a short and fairly meaningless sentence: “The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will operate across the UK”. This doesn’t explain how exactly it will work to achieve its aim of reducing inequality, and at UnLtd we are disappointed to see a lack of willingness to consult with civil society and the public on this important issue. 

Relevant announcements for social entrepreneurs

Two announcements stood out for us in particular.

  1. Strengthening rehabilitation for ex-offenders. This is part of a bigger initiative to tackle violent crime, including tougher sentencing laws and improving safety and security in prisons. There are a number of social entrepreneurs, like Jacob Hill from Offploy, who go above and beyond the contract minimums to deliver effective employment support for ex-offenders. We hope that as part of this initiative, the government will be keen to listen to social entrepreneurs – including those with lived experience of the criminal justice system – and co-design programmes that truly work. (Have a look at our social value consultation response for a couple of case studies on this.)
  2. National infrastructure strategy: A National Infrastructure Strategy will focus on digital, transport and energy “to ensure that no one is left behind.” While we welcome the commitment to tackle regional disparity, we also urge the government to ensure social value is an important part of infrastructure procurement decisions, to ensure that those regions truly benefit from the new opportunities. And, while it’s tempting to focus on tangible assets when aiming to tackle inequality, there is a lot more to be done to unleash the potential of communities who feel left behind.

What next?

MPs began to debate the Queen’s Speech yesterday and will vote on it in the next few days. However, in the current political environment there is no guarantee it will pass and allow the announced bills and measures to be delivered. Nevertheless, it serves as a useful indication of the government’s priorities and what is likely to be included in the next Conservative election manifesto. See this government briefing for more details on the measures. 

As always, UnLtd’s policy team will keep an eye on the latest political developments – including the next Budget, due on 6 November – and report back on what it means for social entrepreneurs, so keep an eye on our blog and our Twitter feed

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Header photo: Stock image by Mark de Jong on Unsplash.