Disabled Entrepreneurs Smash Targets

Disabled people smash self-employment project targets with over 80 new businesses and over 70% still trading 12 months later. I’ve been quiet for several weeks bringing our Work for Yourself project to a close .  This is what we achieved :

A scheme that helps people with long-term health conditions or disabilities get back into work has been hailed a huge success after over 80 new businesses were set up over the last three years.

The specialist ‘Work for Yourself’ programme exceeded all its targets and supported many people to happier and more fulfilled lives.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough Councils, the project has helped many businesses to become established and seen a 70% sustainability rate over the last 12-months.

Project-lead Penny Melville-Brown of Disability Dynamics said, “We celebrated the enthusiasm and achievements of these newly self-employed people earlier in June: it was an evening of laughter and even some tears as people talked about how the project had been ‘life changing’.”

Freelance writer Leonie Martin described how she has already had three books published alongside articles in local and specialist media despite her multiple sclerosis.

Noreen Maynard gave a demonstration of the Emotional Freedom Technique therapy she offers and Trevor Johnson was hugely enthusiastic about the ‘spider web’ climbing frame he had constructed with his recycled safety nets.

Working can still be a struggle with a health condition but Davina Bates continues with her knitting even when she has to stay in bed and her ‘reborn dolls’ are selling well. Overall, her sales are already four times her original forecast.  Award-winning David Harding is pursuing new contracts and will be featured in the next series of the BBC’s ‘Saints and Scroungers’ due for broadcast in October.

Penny added, “The pictures of the event and products such as Estelle Winfield’s wedding novelties were all taken by Catherine Foster who is setting herself up as a photographer.  One of the big successes for us is that quite a few of the new business owners are now thinking about taking on others as their ventures grow – their versatility, determination and creativity is just remarkable.”

The new businesses have resulted in many new full and part-time jobs and are increasingly contributing to the local economy. Although some of the project’s participants decided that self-employment wasn’t for them, nearly 50 have gone on to get jobs or moved in to training.

Bolsover District Council’s Leader, Councillor Ann Syrett said, “We were very proud to host the celebration and are delighted so many people have benefitted from the scheme. We have been leaders in offering this alternative work opportunity and it has paid real dividends for our communities.

“For the BBC to repeatedly showcase our local successes demonstrates what a success the project has been and that the demand for Work for Yourself-type support is growing across the country.”

Councillor John Burrows, Chesterfield Borough Council’s leader and cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Having a disability or long term health problem should not prevent people from having the opportunity of a fulfilling and productive career.

“The Work For Yourself programme has helped several Chesterfield residents develop the confidence and skills needed to succeed in running their own business.”

“We are pleased to have been part of this partnership project which, as the case studies show, has changed the lives of the people taking part.”

Amongst 326 English local authority areas, Bolsover district has the fourth highest level of disabled people and Chesterfield Borough is not far behind, and both areas fall below the national level of self-employed disabled people, this project has made a strong contribution to improving their prospects.

You can read more about other businesses helped by the programme at www.businessability.co.uk.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

WFY team - new entrepreneurs with their advisers

Work for Yourself team – new entrepreneurs with their advisers

Disabled benefit claimants are largest group

There are more disabled people claiming out-of-work benefits than any other group.

I discovered this weekend that talking about “Glasto” seems to be the way to show one is cool and in touch with the music festival scene. Clearly I’m not – but was at a great little event in the New Forest at the weekend. It seemed to be aimed at the Baby Boomers as the refreshments were either Pimms or champagne plus locally-sourced comestibles. All very civilised and lots of family groups until it got too cold.

Did you know?

In previous times, the number of people claiming Incapacity Benefit gave a broad approximation of numbers of unemployed disabled people. Now things have changed: with the introduction of Welfare Reforms and the Work Capability Assessments, about a quarter of Jobseeker Allowance claimants now have long-term health conditions/disabilities in addition to those claiming Employment and Support Allowance making them the largest group of unemployed people.
Despite much enthusiasm, the Work Programme has not proved successful for this large group as described in a recent paper by Inclusion. They and Scope have issued further reports and recommendations for improvements. I have gathered some highlights and nuggets of information from their reports.
There can be little doubt that we cannot afford so many people being lost to the workforce due to the onset of disabling conditions. Based on Scope’s figures, about eight million people (80% of all disabled people) gain their impairments during their working lives and, at the moment, only just over half of them manage to keep their jobs. We need the health services to actively help people stay at work: providing treatment without disabling delays. Last year, for example, for every two disabled people falling out of work, less than one managed to return. This suggests that, with an ageing workforce with increasing propensity for disability, tackling retention by employers must be a top priority. Lots of employers manage this and reap the benefits: there are about 4 million disabled people at work and nearly 40% have been with the same employer for over 10 years. Now we need to get the rest doing the same – seet the ‘Disability Confident’ video clips
All the evidence indicates that, once disabled people have left work, their likelihood of returning is low – with many poor consequences for each individual and the overall economy. Just considering the couple of million or so unemployed disabled people who say they want to get back to work, effective employment support to fulfil their goal could improve the economy by about £26billion.
There is the will to make changes. Thankfully, the old days are over: people being relegated to Incapacity Benefit with little support so being more likely to reach retirement age than get a job if they didn’t get off the benefit within 12 months. The concept of Employment and Support Allowance holds promise despite the on-going controversy around the Work Capability Assessments. However, the timing and pressures of the economic situation have been a huge disadvantage.
The absence of successful employment support hasn’t helped either: specialist Jobcentre staff are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth, the Work Programme hasn’t done as well as hoped and the “specialist” Work Choice help wasn’t well targeted. Alongside, disabled people seem likely to bear the brunt of the future Welfare Cap.
The pressure on the Department for Work and Pensions “Disability and Health Employment Strategy” is going to be intense but it could produce great benefits for everyone if it has realistic resourcing and timescales, makes best use of local, specialist support and gains the active commitment of the health sector and employers. We need to keep their toes to the fire and to make sure this happens. So it’s a bit disappointing that the proposals for the ESF Operational Programme 2014-20 don’t yet take much account of disabled people.

Disability Floristry Art

Disability Floristry Art

Bouquet of the week.
After years of train travel all over the country, I can’t speak highly enough of the station staff who provide passenger assistance. Whether I’m at Birmingham, Chesterfield, Fareham, Southampton Parkway, Waterloo or somewhere in-between, they have been excellent. And it’s a great relief (and rather fun) to be swept through Waterloo on the buggy rather than having to negotiate the rush-hour crowds. Of course, there have been the odd exceptions. There was a memorable occasion when, after waiting nearly an hour for my connecting train, I was put on to one going back to Chesterfield. Blissfully unaware due to laptop ear plugs, it was a rude awakening to be fished off the train at Derby to do a lap of honour back to Birmingham again. But they did manage to hold the next connecting train: imagine the sight of cane-wielding blind person flanked by apologetic out-riders cutting a swathe down the platform – at speed! Assistance at stations is invaluable and has the huge bonus of all those snatched conversations: over the years, hearing about the lives of a whole network of people – even down to the latest tattoo. It makes train travel a completely different experience

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000