The Livability Enterprise Agency, has received a 1.2 million funding boost to help around 1,700 more disabled and disadvantaged people realise their dream of becoming self-employed over the next 15 months.
The project, set up in 2011 by Livability, has so far supported over 250 people to successfully start their own business.
The agency works with vulnerable people who might find it difficult to enter the workplace such as disabled people, people who are long-term unemployed and those who lack formal qualifications. It also helps those, such as women with young children, who find that becoming self-employed helps them better combine family responsibilities and work.
Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as those who are not disabled. One in five people with a work-limiting disability want to find a job but can’t.
The project offers the opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to start thinking about self-employment through one-off workshops as well as longer courses covering business planning, book-keeping and marketing. They also receive advice on the benefits and other financial help they are entitled to while making the transition to self-employment. Once a client becomes self-employed, the service provides business mentoring for up to 6 months in order for the business to have the best possible start.
The Agency works closely with Jobcentre Plus and it was given lead status by the Department of Work and Pension (DWP) for North London in 2013, which makes it the chosen self-employment training provider for the area. It has been awarded a 1.2 million contract by the DWP under the New Enterprise Allowance Programme (NEA).
The New Enterprise Allowance Programme (NEA) has a strong track record of helping people successfully remain in self-employment.
A recent study of the first 3,000 participants of the programme, who had been claiming Job Seekers Allowance for 6 months or more shows that 78% were continuously off benefits at the 52 week point, compared to the National average of 35% of benefit claimants that normally remain off benefits at the 52 week point.
Dave Webber, Livability Chief Executive, said: “Many disadvantaged and disabled people struggle to enter the workplace, often because they still face the stigma attached to having a disability or because they lack formal qualifications. Becoming self-employed gives them real independence and control over their lives. Our Enterprise Agency training provides the tools, support and advice they need to develop their business ideas. It also helps them build their confidence and believe that they can realise their ambitions. We are delighted to be able to extend our project this year and to help even more vulnerable people start their business and stay in business for the long-term. ”
Alice Morris, Head of the Livability Enterprise Agency, said: “The success of the Enterprise Agency, and the NEA programme in general, demonstrates that self-employment can be a real route out of isolation and poverty. It also highlights the importance of entrepreneurs being supported in the early planning stages to ensure the longevity of their business. Many disabled and disadvantaged people have the talent and ideas needed to start a successful business but they need to be given the opportunity and the long-term tailored support to turn this into reality.”
Dave Scates, 24, a wheelchair user who launched his graphic design business with the Enterprise Agency’s help in 2012, said: “After I left university with my design qualifications I must have sent hundreds of CVs over a period of two years to try to get a permanent job. I secured very few interviews and none resulted in an offer of employment. I had no doubt that I had the skills and talent to become a successful designer but no one would give me a chance to prove it. The Enterprise Agency helped me become self-employed and market my skills. I now have a successful business and several regular clients.” More information about Dave’s graphic design freelance services can be found at www.davescates.com.
Alice Morris, Head of the Enterprise Agency, is also part of a steering group set up by the DWP to influence government policy in term of the support provided to disabled and disadvantaged people through the New Enterprise Allowance post 2015.