Self employment for disabled people

The focus for Learning Disability Week is employment, which can come in many different forms. Some young people want to work in an office environment, surrounded by other people, but others prefer to go it alone and pursue a business idea that they think could really work. My Family, Our Needs explores self-employment for young disabled people as a way to take control of their working life and become their own boss with the right support and guidance.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics from the first quarter of 2015 show that just over four million people in the workforce are self-employed. Out of this group, 14.1% have a disability.

Research published by the Papworth Trust claims that the two most common barriers to work among adults with impairments are a lack of job opportunities (43%) and difficulty with transport (29%). With that in mind, it’s no surprise that young disabled people may be keen to take control and forge their own career paths by choosing self-employment.

A positive step to employment

For most people, setting up their own business can seem scary and uncertain – a leap into the unknown where not everything can be guaranteed. It’s a big decision and may not be right choice for everybody. It also takes careful consideration of all the facts. But venturing out on your own can be a really positive and empowering step in a young person’s career path. Becoming self-employed may mean going it alone, but the right support and advice should make young people feel anything but lonely when making that leap.

Providing opportunities to match the potential of disabled entrepreneurs seems to be inspiring the business world to change its thinking. Kaleidoscope Investments was set up in 2014 by experienced investor, Hardeep Rai. With the aim to help people that have disabilities or special needs to turn their ideas into real businesses. Kaleidoscope also supports existing businesses that are in need of raising more money. The team supports the business and offers mentors to help it grow.

How do you know if it’s the right step?

Disliking a current job or not having one at all are not necessarily the best reasons for someone to become self-employed. The more passionate the person is about it and sure that it is the right option for them, the smoother the transition to becoming their own boss is likely to be.

If the young person in your life wants to branch out on their own, make sure they think about the following things:

  • Do they know exactly what they are going to do?
  • Does it use their strongest skills?
  • Is there a need or market for it?
  • Can they make enough money doing it?
  • Do they have a vision of where they want to be in 5 years’ time?
  • Will being self-employed help them get to where they eventually want to be?

 Self-employment also won’t suit everybody’s lifestyle, so they will need to think about the following:


  • Flexibility and choice to work the way they want to.
  • Potential to earn more income in the future.
  • Independence and freedom.
  • Increased job satisfaction because they are doing something they are passionate about.
  • A better fit if they are unable to stick to a rigid routine.


  • No-one to manage them or provide motivation or moral support unless they have a business mentor.
  • If they work alone it may be lonely at times.
  • It may be more stressful as they have more responsibility.
  • They will have to undertake all aspects of running a business, including financial considerations such as cash flow, tax and pension arrangements.

Where do they start?

If the young person has looked at their skills and ideas, weighed up the advantages and disadvantages and decide they’d like to become their own boss, there are plenty of schemes and initiatives designed to give information and support. Remember that some organisations may only work with young disabled people through a referral from places such as the Jobcentre Plus, not from being contacted directly.

New Enterprise Allowance

New Enterprise Allowance is a Government scheme which could give the young person money and support to help start their own business. They need to be receiving certain benefits and have a business idea that could work.

A specialist will assess their business idea. If the specialist believes it has potential, the young person will be signed up to the scheme and receive a business mentor to help on their journey. The mentor will be a volunteer already working within a business that matches the young person’s skills and ideas and the mentor will support them for, typically, eight weeks.

Young people can claim financial support if:

  • Their business plan is approved.
  • They start working at their business for 16 hours or more per week.

A Jobcentre Plus work coach will play an important role in helping the young person to understand the scheme and what they can get from it. The coach will explain who will be assessing the business idea, who will provide support, what the Jobcentre Plus expects throughout the process, how much the allowance is, how it will be paid and what will happen when the allowance ends. Speak to the local Jobcentre Plus or visit for more information.

Disabled Entrepreneurs Website

This website aims to inspire and support disabled people to start up a profitable business. The site features up-to-date news, guides and tips for budding entrepreneurs, networking opportunities, inspiring personal stories and discounts on certain business services. It also offers business advice from mentors.


MiEnterprise is a supported self-employment specialist that enables people with learning disabilities to set up their own businesses. It operates as a mutual marketing co-operative. The first micro-enterprise run by the project was set up in Herefordshire, with the aim of encouraging people to set up their own micro-enterprises across the country.

Livability Enterprise Agency

This service from Livability supports disabled people into self-employment by providing one-off workshops as well as longer training courses, which cover core entrepreneurial skills, such as business planning, book-keeping and marketing. Once a business is launched, they can also provide up to 6 months of mentoring.

They only work in the following London boroughs: Enfield, Barnet, Haringey, Camden, Islington, City of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

Making contact

Before approaching any of the schemes or organisations mentioned, it is a good idea for the young person to do some research at home to feel prepared and ready to discuss their idea with somebody else. Here are a few tips:

  • Have a good idea of what they want to do and exactly what the business will be.
  • Research whether they need any qualifications, special licensing or be registered with a company or official membership body before they set up their business.
  • Have an idea of what financing they need before you start, look at how much money they’ll need to start up and run for the first year, and how much they think they’ll make.
  • Research if there are similar companies in the area, or online to find out who the competition may be and ensure there’s a market for their business.

More information about starting a business is available online. The Government website has a lot of information to help start a business. Most schemes and initiatives will have deadlines so it’s important to have a well-thought-out plan in place before the deadline.

If being their own boss is what the young person in your life wants to do, it can help them to take control of their career and shape their future in the way they want it to.

Find out more about Learning Disability Awareness Week and employment by following the hashtag #LDWeek17 on Twitter.

Has your child ventured into self-employment lately? Email us or tweet us @weareMFON