Today, more people than ever before are self-employed in the UK. At the end of 2019, the number of self-employed people in the UK passed the 5 million mark for the first time ever.
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 41 per cent. There are now almost eight million disabled people nationwide and roughly 662,000 of them are self-employed, accounting for 14 per cent of the self-employed workforce.
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?
- 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.
- Increase powers of the Small Business Commissioner: Give the Commissioner the power to fine late payers.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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