Government policies impact on disability employment

Did you know? •Autumn Statement may impact self-employed disabled people. •Access To Work support workers may be exempt from employers’ National Insurance contributions. •Government taking more notice of mental health issues – but perhaps not enough in relation to work?

Autumn Statement may impact self-employed disabled people.
One element of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last week was the announcement that, from April 2015, self-employed people receiving Working Tax Credits will need to register as self-employed with HMRC. Those declaring income less than the equivalent of working 24 hours per week at the national minimum wage (£6.50 per hour for those aged 21+ for 24 hours would produce a weekly income of £156) will also be required to provide evidence to HMRC that the work they are undertaking is “genuine and effective”. Supporting many disabled people to become self-employed means that we appreciate the big step they take when moving off benefits and many may only manage just over 16 hours per week (certainly in the early days). This would seem to put their eligibility for Working Tax Credits (and, in due course, Universal Credit) at risk. We have asked HMRC for further information as to the meaning of “genuine and effective” so that we can provide guidance for our clients in this position.

Access To Work support workers may be exempt from employers’ National Insurance contributions.
You may be aware that a Parliamentary Select Committee has been reviewing Access To Work (the Government support for disabled people who work that can cover adaptive equipment, support workers and more). Major issues have arisen around the introduction of a new policy that disabled people with the highest needs and who require many hours of support worker time each week can no longer get this support through an agency. The policy has been suspended for some months while the Review has been underway. The policy has some major implications: TUPE or other transfer of employment rights, compliance with HMRC regulations regarding the employment status of the support workers, potential tax liabilities and more. The Autumn Statement offers one improvement: exemption from employer’s National Insurance contributions will be applied to those employing carers and support workers from April 2015. Again, we have asked for confirmation that this includes ATW support workers.

Government taking more notice of mental health issues – but perhaps not enough in relation to work?
The Deputy Prime Minister’s cross-Government initiative is very welcome. I wrote about disabled people in the criminal justice system some time ago and that the level of disability amongst prisoners is probably double that of the rest of the population – and mental health conditions were a significant factor. Hopefully, the initiative will pay closer attention to mental health and work than indicated in the Guardian article It is really well recognised that being unemployed due to ill health can easily result in a further mental health illness – and that these have been very poorly recognised by the Work Capability Assessments. The result can be that people with mental health conditions (and other disabilities) are deemed capable of taking action to seek work and, when they are not able to do so, having their benefits sanctioned or withdrawn. It is not difficult to see how some of those people can end up in the criminal justice system.

Disability Floristry Art
Disability Floristry Art

Bouquet of the Week.
Here’s one of my Christmas arrangements – see if you can spot the sprayed monkey nuts and hydrangeas. I managed to do some of the spraying without too much mess – thankfully, skin is scrubbable! Meanwhile I’ve been packing up little hampers of homemade marmalade, chilli jam, mincemeat, damson gin, candied peel and Christmas cakes – and just a few presents to go. Yo Ho Ho.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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