Benefits reform: pounds 150 job incentive for disabled

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The Independent Online
DISABLED PEOPLE in full-time work will be guaranteed an income of pounds 150 a week, in order to encourage them to find jobs, the Prime Minister announced yesterday.

Tony Blair also confirmed that legislation to create a Disability Rights Commission, to tackle discrimination against the disabled, would be drawn up before the end of the year.

The Government is introducing a disability working tax credit, similar to the working families tax credit, which is at the heart of the Government's tax and benefit reform. It will be paid through the wage packet and will replace disability working allowance.

Addressing an audience of disabled people and people from disability rights groups in London yesterday, Mr Blair said the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, would officially launch the tax credit scheme next week as part of the "hidden revolution" of the tax and benefit system.

"This credit, which is going to be similar to the working families' tax credit, will ensure that work pays for disabled people," said Mr Blair.

In a White Paper this summer, the Education minister Alan Howarth outlined plans for the new commission which would ensure "comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people".

The Prime Minister pledged yesterday that legislation for the commission would be launched in the next session of Parliament. "The purpose of the commission will be to provide information and advanced codes of practice, and it will be able to conduct formal investigations and to build on the best practice of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality."

The Prime Minister said no one who was too ill to work would be forced to do so, but he made it clear that the proposed reforms would involve a new approach."The danger for politicians, but also for everyone, is that when talking about disability issues, that we approach this in a way of saying `What can we give to disabled people?' " Mr Blair said. "But actually this should not be like that. It should be about `How do we fulfil the potential and give opportunities to people to make the most of what they have?'"

James Strachan, chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People said the announcement was "tremendous" news.

"At last the law on disability discrimination will be properly enforceable enabling disabled people to participate and contribute fully to society," he said. "But human behaviour, especially prejudice cannot be changed simply by force of law. The commission must educate and promote better understanding of disability, not merely wield a big legal stick. It needs to be properly resourced for this dual role."

Commenting on the tax credit, a spokesman for the Mencap charity said that while anything that "removed barriers into work" was very welcome, "We hope they take into account that many people with learning disabilities work part-time and are not going to be able to access the new tax credit."