Welfare Reform Bill

Memorandum submitted by Cllr Jonathan Bishop (WR 11)

Re: Welfare Reform

1. I am a highly qualified man with autism, who as a result of discrimination in job interviews have not had the same opportunities to employment and public life as others. I did a Young Enterprise Scheme as a teenager and this gave me the impetus to set up my own limited company with the help of others with low social mobility, to get the qualifications and experience we were being denied by other employers, and meant we had a steady wage and rewarding job to be less reliant on benefits. I was statemented as a child with special needs and have in my adulthood been assessed for help from social services, the disabled students allowance, disability living allowance, Access to Work and IB.

2. The current income-based system of taxation and benefits/credits discourages disabled people like me from earning more, as the Secretary of State knows. I would like to suggest the following proposals, as someone ‘stuck’ on tax credits after previously being ‘stuck’ on Incapacity Benefit.

a. Remove the personal allowance and reintroduce the 10 per cent tax band. Make everyone working or on benefits pay income tax and national insurance and contribute 5% to a pension (Individual Pension Scheme - IPS) of their choice which is portable and independent of government like ISAs, but guaranteed by the government. People on benefits are sent a statement showing ‘contributions’ making less of a barrier going into work and earning more without fear of tax. Disabled people should have a ‘minimum income guarantee’, however employed and even if in education, like in Belgium.

b. Remove disincentives and add incentives. Instead of the ’12-month cut off,’ people should only get benefits if working, studying or in voluntary service. Benefits from having a Tax Credits Health Card or HE1 should be universally free to everyone, including millionaires with an EHIC. I should not be afraid of earning more for fear of losing the regular sight tests I have as glaucoma is in my family, nor should other disabled people in their cases.

c. Make indirect and municipal taxes progressive in the EU based on social status and consumption not income. So for example someone heating a château would pay more fuel and municipal tax than someone heating a one bedroom flat if the former uses more. Also, families, disabled and elderly people would have higher thresholds to fuel and municipal tax to help them. VAT on a £125,000 car should be more than a £5,000 car.

3. With regard to 1 above, the 10p tax band should be an interim measure. I would ideally like to see a flat income tax of 20%, and a ‘Supranational Insurance’ paid by UK nationals wherever in the EU they are and want free healthcare and welfare benefits paid by their country of origin.

4. I would like the Government to get the ball rolling for a single disability assessment passport, which is mutually recognisable by all levels of the public/private sector for education, employment, health and social services, eventually across the EU. Such an assessment should be carried out by someone specialising in the disability of the applicant, such as a charity.

March 2011