Philip Hammond's decision to raise tax for self-employed workers is not justified

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Regarding the Budget today in which the Chancellor stated that the self-employed need to contribute NIC, I have to say that I find such a comment extremely insulting. Since 2001 I have contributed £645,000 in turnover subject to VAT (£129,000) and in order to do so I have had to pay £70,000 in training (with £14,000 in VAT) for the privilege.

In theory, employment law should require employers in my given profession to provide contracts. But due to deficiencies in those laws, employers turn a blind eye to requirements and most of us have to resort to self-employment – this is not out of choice.

It is a great pity that the Government chooses to pick on the individuals who earn little more than minimum wage yet provide substantial taxable turnover. They should pursue the issue of corporate tax avoidance with equal vigour. Then perhaps the UK would be in a better place, both morally and financially.

Julian Nicholls
North Tyneside

We should pay tribute to the trials women have faced

International Women's Day is a time to reflect and pay tribute to the women who strode tirelessly on the path to systematically eliminate hatred, human rights abuses, social exclusion, gender inequity, religious intolerance and cultural marginalisation.

This has become more important with the steady influx of women refugees and girls. Women suffer disproportionately from the societal grievances that scar our planet and that should be expunged from our societies.

Also we must not forget the fact that climate change has had an unbearable impact on women, exacerbating sexual harassment, violence, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, exploitation, economic poverty, famine and vulnerability to traffickers, smugglers and terrorists.

The media should champion the universal sexual and reproductive rights of women and instigate a cultural revolution that ushers in a new era of inclusiveness and egalitarianism for the betterment of mankind.

Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London, NW2

I thought the point of leaving the EU was to give control back to Parliament?

With regards to the House of Lords' decision to allow Parliament the final say on May's Brexit deal, surely this is what Leave's ‘Take Back Control’ campaign was all about, making sure that Parliament made decisions and not the EU.

The actions of May and her Brexiteers show what a lie this was. She is an unelected Prime Minister who, I believe, lacks the mandate to make the wide-reaching decisions that will affect the country for decades to come. If she wants to succeed with Brexit then she needs the support of Parliament, otherwise she should go to the polls and test out her version of a hard Brexit and see what the voters response would be.

The people or Parliament should decide. 

Nicki Bartlett
Cardiff

It is time for Northern Ireland to move away from Britain 

Siobhan Fenton makes a powerful and valid point when she claims that a united Ireland is inevitable. There are only two workable political ways of organising the British Isles: a unity of all the isles (with fair devolution to the four nations) or a united Britain and a united Ireland, as distinct countries. Britain united to a bit of Ireland is not workable in the long term, especially now that Britain is leaving the EU. 

The former option was precluded first by Britain's appalling behaviour in Ireland, which led to Eire's break off, and now by our break from the EU. The only way for Ireland to avoid Mrs May's economically and politically damaging border controls is for Northern Ireland to consider a new political arrangement in which it secedes from Britain. 

Francis Beswick
Stretford

Theresa May 'Christian' principles need to be questioned

Let us not forget that Theresa May also said that if push came to shove she would press the nuclear button.

What would Jesus make of that?

Maggie Dyer
London, NW2

We need to take mental health seriously 

As someone who has experienced mental ill health, I know how important it is to receive the right support, at the right time. I also know that being able to work has been an imperative part of my recovery and an ongoing positive factor in staying mentally well. I passionately believe that as a society we should be creating mentally healthy workplaces, and giving people with mental health issues the opportunity to feel able to work.

Last week, an open letter to The Independent from a number of doctors associated with some of Britain’s leading mental health organisations made a case for increased mental health awareness training for job centre staff. This was set in the context of calls for reform of welfare and employment services made in advance of the spring budget announcement. This is a pertinent recommendation, given that unemployed people are disproportionately impacted by mental ill health. Those out of work for more than 12 weeks show between four and ten times the prevalence of depression and anxiety.

At a policy level, this group’s letter also called for the development of statutory support for creating psychologically healthy workplaces, an idea that I wholeheartedly support. Encouragingly, many businesses are already taking it upon themselves to improve their approaches to mental health, as was evident at last week’s ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’ event run by the Institute of Directors. The business case is undeniable: mental ill health is the third biggest cause of absence in the workplace and is the cause of an estimated 15 million days of leave, costing employers around £26bn per year. The human cost can’t necessarily be quantified in the same way but anecdotally we know that mental ill health can cause untold levels of distress and suffering. It is therefore vital that we upskill people in the workplace to look after their own and others mental health.

Through my 18 years of experience as a mental health advocate I am committed to establishing parity of esteem between mental and physical health and I believe that good quality training can aid this. As a society we need to empower people from all walks of life to confidently deal with mental health issues, just as they are able to with their physical health. By campaigning to upskill individuals in Mental Health First Aid for example, I too am advocating for psychologically supportive workplaces throughout the country. If one in ten people are trained in Mental Health First Aid, I believe we can create a supportive workplace culture conducive to good mental health and wellbeing. 

Poppy Jaman  CEO of Mental Health First Aid England, non-executive director of Public Health England and Programme Director of the City Mental Health Alliance

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