Worried about money if you try to set up a business and you're on benefits?

If you feel that you are able to work for 16 hours or more each week, you want to set up your own business or develop an existing one, and you receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), you may be able to claim New Enterprise Allowance. This will provide you with mentoring, a grant and access to a start up loan. There is more information about NEA on the gov.uk site.

But, if you feel that you cannot for 16 hours every week, perhaps because of impairment related or health issues, then you may be able to use the Permitted Work rules to try out your business, whilst still keeping your Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance. This would certainly give you some security to try and build up your business, and help you to establish if you are able to work and how many hours you can tolerate. The key issue is that under the higher limit of permitted work, you must work for less than 16 hours per week (on average) and earn less than £125.50 per week before your ESA is affected. This is therefore a great way to see what works for you initially. The only requirement is to tell the DWP you are doing permitted work on form PW1 (available as a pdf download to print and complete from the gov.uk website). You would also be required to provide information about the number of hours worked and your earnings.

Finally, if you are not sure what benefits you may be able to claim, you can find this information out on the turn2us site. Turn2us also has a very useful grants finder, so that you can check if there are any small pots of funding to get you started.

Access to Work

Access to Work is a government programme that can provide practical support if you are a disabled person or have a long term physical or mental health condition and you already run your own business or want to set up a business. The money doesn’t have to be paid back and it does not affect any other benefits.

A number of people believe that you cannot get Access to Work support if you are self employed. However, this is not the case! A self employed disabled person has a similar entitlement to support through the Access to Work programme as an employee for a firm. Access to Work can help pay for support you may need because of your disability or long term health condition, for example:

  • equipment or adaptations to equipment in your workplace
  • money towards any extra travel costs to and from work if you can’t use available public transport, or if you need help to adapt your vehicle
  • an interpreter if you have difficulty communicating
  • other practical help at work, such as a job coach or a note taker or lip speaker

If you have a mental health difficulty, you may be offered assistance from the Mental Health Support Service to develop a plan to support you going in to, remaining in or returning to work.

Any equipment paid for by the Programme must be impairment related. For example, although Access to Work would cover the costs of a screen reader and training, they would not provide a laptop or desktop as this is standard work equipment. Additionally, you may be asked to share costs if you also use the equipment on a personal basis.

After applying online and talking with the Access to Work Advisor, or the Disability Employment Advisor in your local Jobcentre Plus, you may have to go through a workplace assessment, in order to identify the adjustments that may be needed or your equipment needs. You will also be asked about the tasks you cannot do because of your impairment. It is a good idea to think about the difficulties you face and the items that could help you at work so that you are ready for the assessment.

You may also be asked to provide a business plan together with a projection of your sales if you are starting up or your accounts if you are already in business.

Once, Access to Work has approved your application and support needs, they will then meet all the approved costs.

In order to assist you, we have produced a factsheet for entrepreneurs which you can download here .

There is also information available from the gov.uk website, as well as a Customer Information Sheet.

Important note: The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not covered by Access to Work and there is a different service in Northern Ireland.

What other things do I need to know about being self employed?

There is a lot of information available on the gov.uk site, including information about different types of business structures, registering with the Inland Revenue as a self employed person and managing your accounts and reporting requirements.

However, if you need further help when you have read the information provided, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we will try to assist.