Support services for disabled people

Entrepreneurs with disabilities need more support – Findings of an IFF Research report, commissioned by the DWP

Disabled entrepreneurs may have greater support needs, found an IFF Research report published this week. The research commissioned by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was designed to enhance their understanding of the experience of self-employment for disabled people.

This study was prompted following the observation of rising levels of self-employment within the UK labour market. Between 2001 and 2017, the number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million to 4.8 million people. Moreover, currently in the UK only about half of those with a disability or long-term health condition are in employment, compared to four-fifths of the non-disabled population. This means that around 3.5 million disabled people are potentially missing out on the health and wellbeing benefits that appropriate work can bring. The research was designed to understand to what extent self-employment can be a suitable option for disabled people, considering the potential challenges faced and how these can be alleviated.

Research Design

We conducted forty in-depth interviews and two focus groups as part of this qualitative research, with the following groups:

DWP disabled entrepreneur research

These interviews covered broadly the same topics with each audience:

    • Motivations for entering or seeking self-employment;
    • Challenges of entering, maintaining and growing self-employment;
    • Support received over the course of self-employment; and
    • Ideal type of support that would have been useful over the course of self-employment.

Research Findings

In general, the challenges faced by disabled self-employed people are similar to those faced by all self-employed people, however challenges are compounded and complicated by health conditions which can fluctuate or worsen. Disabled people can also lack confidence and rarely have access to roles models who are disabled and self-employed. In addition, representatives of organisations providing self-employment support generally lack a knowledge, or lived experience, of disability.

As part of the research we also asked disabled self-employed people to tell us about their employment history. This uncovered that many had left traditional employment because it had become unsuitable for them; while some employers had tried to be flexible, others were not able to accommodate their needs. In other cases, doing the job itself was no longer possible regardless of employers’ efforts.

The DWP and The Department of Health have made a commitment to remove the barriers that stop people with a disability or health condition from getting into work, with an aim to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027. This includes a commitment to provide people with the best opportunities so that they can succeed in self-employment. These findings of this study have implications therefore for future support provision considering the specifics the needs of disabled people.

The full report can be viewed here. Or for more information on the research or findings contact:

Lorna Adams, Director,

Gill Stewart, Associate Director,