Disabled and becoming Self Employed – A Case Study

This is my  first official post for Deaeper, the blog site for DEAEP  (Disability Enabling And Empowerment Project), and wearing my professional hat, I wanted to share my experience of  working with 3 other disabled people, collectively utilising our skills and experience to become financially viably self employed.  The following has been adapted from a letter I sent to Kate Green MP in response to Labour’s plan to turn around £8 billion overspend on disability benefits, and the suggestions at the end are specifically aimed at Government.

DEAEP is a charitable social enterprise that offers training and support to sick and disabled people, unemployed, and other vulnerable individuals. Our training experience enables participants to, knowledgeably and confidently, actively support others during times of extreme stress; this could be attending ATOS assessments and, or to participate in social and community engagement.

Our training programme has been specifically designed by sick & disabled people to enable others develop necessary the skills, ability and confidence, to actively empower others to self advocate when needed. We can also offer the opportunity for participants to train as a skill sharer, thus enabling them to impart this learning to others. Alternatively participants might utilise this programme to go onto other further education or into employment. There is a the supervised practice element of the programme wherein participants will provide supervised advocacy for others.

This year we have supported over a dozen users through their varying claims, and issues with the DWP, we have helped people write successfully ESA & PIP applications, supported others with mandatory reconsiderations and represented people at tribunal, we have also enabled people manage their issues with job related training programmes. We have piloted out training programme and from this gained five volunteers skilled to offer this type of support to their peers.  All of the which has been at personal cost to ourselves both financially and in terms of health.

Our overall aim is to enable chronically sick and disabled people participate in society through the provision of an appropriate range of training opportunities, which allows participants to either enrol on Further & Higher Education, gain the necessary skills to confidently enter Community Engagement enter employment or, fully re-engage in Society; and to enable those too ill to work access the social security the are rightly entitled to.

We are experiencing several primary issues :

Our target group have no access to finances to pay for this essential  service

There is no money to help us ‘sell’ our corporate training to the people who want/need it; despite having hard evidence of demand from Unite the Union and several solicitors offices.

We have no way of paying for the administration costs of running the course.

The fact we are all disabled creates problems for us personally with the DWP

An acknowledgement by DWP that disabled people often require more time to complete tasks and their energy levels are low due to fatigue.

We believe the following would make a huge difference

A loosening of the earning on benefits regulations would allow people to continue receiving ESA/JSA until such time they become financially independent

Access for small companies to government grants/contracts which offer direct provision to disabled people

A government funded grant programme  enabling disabled people develop the confidence and self awareness to allow them access further opportunities

Changes to access to FE opportunities specifically aimed at disabled adults thus removing the current barriers

This is a précis of our experience to date and I would welcome positive feedback and comments from others on this post.

Thanks for reading – Jayne x

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14 thoughts on “Disabled and becoming Self Employed – A Case Study

  1. Hi Jane, you’ve done some amazing work and by the sounds of it you’re struggling at the moment. Do you think it might be an idea to put a donate button on the website? There’s a local disabled charity round here I’ve suggested that to as well as I wanted to give a small donation for their help, it was only very small ha. But anyway maybe it’s worth thinking about? All the best

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Have you thought about contacting unite Community (part of Unite the Union). They are trying to set up local branches for people to meet together and support eachother through the trouble being thrown at them by the Government, DWP and jobcentres. One of the biggest stumbling blocks in setting up anything like this is that people feel they have nothing to contribute, that they wouldn’t know how to behave and they don’t know enough to engage in advocacy.

    There’s also crowdfunding – nothing to loose by trying. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Disabled and becoming Self Employed, A Case Study – Jayne Linney | Vox Political

  4. This is very exciting and innovative! Congratulations on what you have so far achieved. I also think a donate button is a good idea but I wonder about partnering where someone helps with a small amount and then when that person is financially viable they pay it back with a bit more and that goes to sponsor the next person and so on. A sort of self-generating micro-finance scheme. Just ideas really but I would be happy to pitch in with a starter to get something rolling if you think it a good idea? I don’t know if the book-keeping might be complicated?

    Thanks for all you do Jayne.
    xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jayne,

    In the days of massive reduction of funding to the advice and not for profit sector, I am of a belief that advocacy and empowerment have an important, if not vital, role to play in helping people in to self employment & negotiating the perilous social security system which all too often makes it an impossible task.

    I’m pleased to note the accent which you place on training; this is an absolute must.

    My concern is where people (however well meaning) try and help people without suitable training. Benefit tribunals may appear to be relatively easy to negotiate because government over promote the HMCTS system as ‘user – friendly’. I’ve seen far too many people lulled in to a false sense of security in the mistaken belief that they can manage their ESA appeals etc without the right degree of trained & professional help. The cost of trying to get by on anything less than the right amount of help can be immense. In the case of an ESA appeal for instance it may be that the claimant is incorrectly found fit for work, not only does this result in loss of money but it also denies them lack of access to what should be the right help in to work.

    Where this goes horribly wrong is when a claimant comes unstuck a couple or so years down the line. The lack of a proper business plan can mean it all falls apart, the HMRC may take a view that the earnings of a self – employed person are retrospectively insufficient to deem them eligible for WTC on the basis of the work not being ‘done for or in expectation of a payment, the local authority may incorrectly assess Housing/Council Tax Support on the basis of projected earnings via a self – employed earner’s declaration, problems with taxation arise; as a result the claimant is subjected to a demand which is disproportionate to how much has actually been earned.

    The real cost of getting this wrong (with no wish to put a damper on what appears to be a perfectly good idea) is bureaucratic mayhem, compliance action by the authorities, sometimes a criminal investigation by over zealous DWP/HMRC/LA investigators who regularly put 2 and 2 together making 5. The claimant ends up with a shattered dream, an overpayment and plunged in to debt; sometimes with the indignity of an ill placed criminal record. I have a huge concern for those with a mental health condition not getting the right help on their respective self – employment journeys.

    The lack of suitable advice is a major problem. A downside to people no longer being able to access nationally accredited advice agencies is that no few challenges are made against defective Tribunal decisions as well as very little social policy evidence being collated; both of which are very effective ways of convincing policy makers that their policies are not working.

    Like I say, I’m not being overly negative over an idea which I broadly support, but I think it right to point out some of the pitfalls which we all too often end up having to sort out. Sadly by which time it is very often too late. I’d encourage anyone thinking of going down this route to ensure adequate training is in place and if necessary join with others to make this possible.

    Nick @mylegalforum ilegal.org.uk newapproachuk.org

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Nick – as a long serving adult educator I agree, so many well meaning people have feel foul by ‘helping’ without adequate underpinning knowledge. The cuts to FE have not helped the situation at all xx

    Like

  7. Pingback: Disabled and becoming Self Employed – A Case Study | nickilinney

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