Jacqueline Winstanley BSC hons CEO Universal Inclusion UK C4GEI Board Member Chair Fluidity, Virgin Start Up Mentor

Jacqueline Winstanley BSC hons
CEO Universal Inclusion UK
C4GEI Board Member
Chair Fluidity, Virgin Start Up Mentor

In considering the implications and likely support requirements of disabled people who choose to enter into entrepreneurship we first need to explore the concept itself .

In the past its fair to say that society perceived entrepreneurship as slightly outside mainstream business activities and associated it with risk compared with the once traditional “ job for life “ approach to career pathways.

The risk associated with entrepreneurship in terms of failure came at a high price, the prospect of public humiliation and being declared bankrupt was enough to discourage all but the most determined individuals from going down this route.

However things have changed dramatically in the 21st Century with more and more people seeing the opportunities and to a degree freedoms that entrepreneurship can bring .

As society has moved away from the “ Job for Life “ approach people have branched out in terms of career pathways and it is becoming increasingly acceptable to have a varied employment history often within different fields of expertise and that includes becoming an entrepreneur.

There is a greater acceptance in terms of the risks associated with entrepreneurship , less stigma associated with business failure and more of a recognition and articulated perfectly by Richard Branson that failure is an acceptable and inevitable risk in business “Every person, and especially every entrepreneur, should embrace failure with open arms. It is only through failure that we learn. Many of the world’s finest minds have learned this the hard way”

We are it could be said in the age of the entrepreneur as more and more people shun the conventional ties of mainstream employment sometimes out of necessity in response to the lack of available jobs but increasingly in response to aspiration, opportunity, innovation and a drive to create a product , have a social impact or create a legacy with an increasing emphasis on social entrepreneurship than the more traditional business model.

It is perhaps not surprising that the Federation of Small Business cite up to 80% of business growth in the UK is in Small to Medium Enterprise.

An entrepreneur is classed as self employed by the Inland Revenue , often as a sole trader but increasingly as a Director within a limited company or social enterprise.

This classification is not linked to the amounts of money that they earn the only requirement is that they register with the Inland Revenue

Entrepreneurs are considered to have vision, determination, be great leaders and innovators .

The difference between a disabled entrepreneur and their non disabled peer is they start from a position of disadvantage and will need support to achieve equality of access to the opportunities that entrepreneurship can bring.

Having accepted this what we now need to consider are these areas of disadvantage and what support mechanisms can be put into place through the ATW award.

Embedding Aspiration:

Members of Fluidity at the recently piloted Inclusive Entrepreneurship Programme ( JW 2014©) stated they find it hard enough to get into mainstream employment and had either not considered entrepreneurship , been unsupported in past attempts to enter into it or could not imagine themselves able to do it.

We need a commitment from government through the Access to work award to the rights of disabled people to work and that includes entrepreneurship.

Members stated a key benefit of the ATW award was it was not a benefit in the traditional sense and they wanted it to remain out of the benefit system as they felt less stigmatised that way.

Particular attention needs to be paid to raising the profile of disabled entrepreneurs to provide role models and mentors.

We need positive action in terms of introducing disabled people to the concept of and important role they have to play in entrepreneurship and the services that are able to help them.

We need ATW to be effective, based on business innovation and skills which is led by and understands the needs of and ways disabled people lead their working lives upholding the Social Model of Disability.

Eligibility criteria must be formed from the needs of disabled people in this area , not traditional milestones applied to their non disabled peers.

Areas of practical Support:

These will not differ greatly from those required in mainstream employment , they will however be required to utilised in a flexible and responsive manner in line with the disabled persons aspirations & business priorities in the current global economy.

We can no longer accept situations where disabled entrepreneurs are not supported effectively because of ineffective systems or lack of understanding or an unwillingness to put the simple measures in place that make it possible .

There needs to be an appreciation of entrepreneurship as a real option for disabled people and a recognition of the innovative support that needs to be put into place to achieve this , including access to finance ( to remove the current situation which just sets people up to fail or deems them ineligible )

The Inclusive Entrepreneur Programme in the Uk , Universal Inclusion & Fluidity have identified key areas that they consider to be essential to support disabled people to become entrepreneurs:

A simple application process available in alternative formats
Flexible ,not over onerous mechanism for identifying support requirements based on the disabled persons understanding of their own requirements and are implemented at the earliest possible point.
Direct Access to a Personal Advisor who has the autonomy to make decisions particularly when business priorities require additionality at short notice.
Access to Entrepreneurship Incubators for Disabled people to provide initial start up and ongoing advice on managing a health condition as an entrepreneur alongside traditional areas of business support.
Training on how to manage the award including recruitment, selection and management of support workers .
That commissioning is opened up to give more choice and opportunities for disabled people themselves to provide services , including training and development .
For those who are not in receipt of PIP that the award continues to allow support for personal care .
There is a recognition that a high level of support will be required to enable people with chronic and fluctuating conditions manage their health condition as an entrepreneur. This is area that was particularly highlighted in the Select Committee Report and will require further consultation and training for advisors to help them better understand the complexities of managing a chronic fluctuating condition particularly if it is not visible .
There is a recognition that entrepreneurs within the Deaf Community will require a high level of support in this area to enable them have equity in the business arena.
That the award contains an element for areas of compliance areas such as HMRC where there is a need for support .
Easy access to mental health support & holistic therapies
We have a real opportunity to work in partnership to create a programme of support we know will increase equality of access for disabled people to entrepreneurship which will not only us to have and achieve our aspirations but end the intergenerational poverty that disabled people are so often condemned to .

The changes required are simple to put into place it just requires the vision, passion and determination of those who are tasked to to do so.

To find out how you can support Inclusive Entrepreneurship and hear about the launch of the Inclusive Entrepreneur Foundation please email me at :

email universal_inclusion@icloud.com