While overall self-employed numbers drop in the aftermath of the pandemic and IR35 reforms, the disabled self-employed continue to thrive - increasing year on year since 2013.

One group in particular are choosing to work for themselves: disabled people. In fact, since 2013, the number of self-employed disabled people has risen by 39 per cent. The number of self-employed disabled has increased by seven per cent since 2020.

Despite the large number of disabled people in self-employment, very little is known about this group. In our research we aim to answer some of the burning questions about this under-researched sector such as: who are the disabled self-employed, what are their motivations for entering self-employment, what are the key challenges they face and how can we better support them?


Key recommendations

  1. Re-design the Work Capability Assessment (WCA): Ensure disabled people with a broad mix of physical and mental health conditions and impairments are part of a process to coproduce a redesigned WCA. This should reduce chances of wrong decisions being made in the assessment process.
  2. Increase powers of the Small Business Commissioner: Give the Commissioner the power to fine late payers.
  3. Increase New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) mentor and benefit support to two years: NEA benefit and mentor support should be increased to reflect the length of time individuals need support whilst establishing their business.
  4. Publicise Access to Work (ATW): The DWP should publicise ATW more broadly in Job Centre Pluses and mandate Work Coaches to make all eligible people aware of ATW – it is the government’s best kept secret for supporting disabled people in work!

Read our full report 'Making self-employment work for disabled people'

For this report, IPSE partnered with Community trade union to gather the views of disabled people, consult with experts from government, the charity sector and academia, and analyse data from the Office for National Statistics to uncover more about this poorly understood group.


Read the report


Read our 2019 data brief on the number of disabled people in the UK

To better understand and support this growing sector within self-employment, IPSE has continued to conduct research on the topic throughout 2019. You can find the most up-to-date information about the demographic and occupational composition of the disabled self-employed here.

The Disabled Self-Employed Data Brief

There are barriers in employment for disabled people such as fear and stigma, it is very difficult to fight prejudice. Employer attitudes towards mental health conditions, for instance, is a great issue – 56 per cent of employers wouldn’t employ someone with a mental health condition because of fear and stigma from co-workers.

Gemma Hope

Director of policy, Shaw Trust

I’m autistic, so I struggled to get a job where it’s people facing. I don’t generally like talking on the phone, so I can’t really work in a call centre because it would make me have panic attacks. Just having a normal job is not something I found easy.


Disabled freelancer, works in graphic design

Self-employment can provide a boost in self-worth.

Philip Connolly

Policy manager, Disability Rights UK

Yes, the thing of you are your own boss is great. I like that. It’s probably the greatest positive.


Disabled freelancer, works as musician

Where next?

Back to Campaigns

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Read the report

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Read the data brief

Click here