Why more disabled workers are choosing self-employment

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 18 June 2019

Disabled,self employed person working from home

More disabled people than ever are choosing to work for themselves, but they are being let down by poor support from government.

Research by freelancer body IPSE and trade union Community reveals that 611,000 UK disabled people now work for themselves in their main job - representing a 30% increase in the past five years.

The report, Making self-employment work for disabled people, has found that disabled people actively choose self-employment; only 12% were pushed into it by a lack of opportunities or redundancy. The most common reason for choosing self-employment is to get better work conditions.

Disabled freelancers share many of the same problems as the wider self-employed sector, such as confusion about employment status and late payment, but they also face many specific challenges. The report calls for a number of changes, including better publicity for the Access to Work programme, which has been described as "the best kept secret for supporting disabled people in work".

"Working for themselves is an overwhelmingly positive choice for disabled people," said Jonathan Lima-Matthews, IPSE head of public affairs. "They can enjoy the freedom to work when, where and, crucially, how they want - something many told us they couldn't do in permanent employment. 

"The government says it wants to help people get into work, but ministers are letting disabled people down by failing to support them to be their own boss. It's time for it to turn this around and give disabled people striking out for themselves the support they need."

John Paul McHugh, assistant general secretary at Community, said: "The growth in the number of disabled people becoming self-employed shows no signs of slowing. It's no surprise this report found a majority had a positive view of self-employment and intended to stay in it for the long-term.

"However, it's clear not enough is being done by government to help disabled people to make a success of this way of working. Partnering with like-minded organisations and charities, we believe we can create a better working world for disabled people through self-employment, but that also needs the right focus and policies from government."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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