Self-employment can be well suited to disabled or neurodivergent students and graduates, if you find it difficult to keep up with traditional work. According to government statistics, in 2022 only 53% of disabled people were in work, compared to 83% of the non-disabled population.
In a survey conducted for the Leonard Cheshire charity, 19% of employers admitted to being less likely to hire someone with a disability, with many citing the cost of making workplace adjustments as a factor. Other potential barriers for disabled or neurodivergent job-seekers could include the lack of accessible public transport, limited flexibility for hybrid/home working, or a lack of a quiet working environment in the office.
These are just some of the reasons that self-employment is becoming increasingly popular in the disabled population. In fact, there has been a 30% increase in the last five years!
There are numerous benefits and drawbacks to self-employment, so before making any decisions, take these into consideration:
- Flexible work schedule
- Potential to link work to your interests
- Control over the timing and pace of your work
- Increased community engagement and independence
- Avoid commute
- Irregularity of income
- No holiday/sick pay
- Potential for financial instability, e.g. quiet periods, late payments
- Could be difficult to pay for initial training
- Paperwork (tax etc.)
If you think self-employment could be for you, check out LJMU’s Start-Up Hub! The team supports LJMU students and recent graduates in starting up their own business or working as a freelancer through workshops and webinars, networking opportunities and guest speakers, as well as 1-2-1 meetings and business advice.
For some additional information about self-employment and funding/start-up loans, check the following links and organisations.
This is not an exhaustive list and we would encourage you to conduct your own research, as support offers and grant availability can change.
Leonard Cheshire manage the application process for the Stelios Awards for disabled entrepreneurs. Every year, three life-changing top prizes of £50,000, £30,000 and £20,000 are up for grabs for disabled entrepreneurs who own at least 50% of a UK-registered for-profit company with an annual turnover of at least £5,000.
IPSE is the UK’s only not-for-profit association dedicated to the self-employed.
The Association of Disabled Professionals
The Association of Disabled Professionals provides information, advice and support to disabled people and people with long term health conditions, who run, or want to run, their own business.
Mutually Inclusive offers a range of business guides, training resources and strategic support packages.
Access to Work
Government-backed start-up loans of between £500 and £25,000 are available, and successful applicants also receive up to 12 months of free mentoring. In addition, disabled entrepreneurs can also apply for Access to Work funding, for example to pay for specialist equipment. The Business and Self-Employment section on the gov.uk website provides lots of information and links to local support and funding.
The Prince's Trust
The Prince’s Trust runs an Enterprise programme for 18-30-year-olds to support budding entrepreneurs.
National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs
The National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs runs the Tata Varsity Pitch competition, the UK’s biggest business competition for students and recent graduates with up to £15,000 up for grabs for your business start-up.
UnLtd focuses on supporting social entrepreneurs whose businesses provide solutions that change society for the better with funding available both to start up or scale up a business.
School for Social Entrepreneurs
The School for Social Entrepreneurs runs courses and programmes (many of them online) that equip people to start, scale and strengthen organisations that make a positive difference. This includes their 12-month Community Business Trade Up programme, which provides participants with a mentor, support network, free learning programme, and up to £5,000 match trading grant.
Business Without Barriers
Business Without Barriers is a hub run by the Federation of Small Businesses, which features inspiring interviews with successful disabled entrepreneurs.
Kaleidoscope Investments helps entrepreneurs with disabilities to realise their dream of running and growing their own business by providing expertise and investment.
If you are in receipt of government benefits, self-employment can affect your entitlement – see the Scope website for some further information.