News & views

Need help now?

Our advice centre has a lot of the information you need.

Read more

Stand up for equality!

We're looking for members to become equalities reps

Read more

Join the conversation

Join members on our equalities facebook group to get involved in our work

Read more

Equalities training

Courses that may help you when it comes to mental health, diversity or building your confidence.

Read more

Community launches landmark report on disabled people in self-employment

10th June 2019

More disabled people than ever before are choosing self-employment, but are being let down by poor support from government, according to new research from Community trade union and IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed).

The study, ‘Making self-employment work for disabled people’, found that 611,000 UK disabled people now work for themselves in their main job. The report also found that although they overwhelmingly see self-employment as a positive way of working, they do not get the support they need from government.

Key findings of the report are:

  • One in seven (611,000 people) of the self-employed UK workforce are disabled, up by 30 per cent in five years.
  • Disabled people actively choose self-employment, only 12 per cent were ‘pushed’ into it by a lack of opportunities or redundancy.
  • The most common reason for choosing self-employment is for better work conditions with one in five disabled freelancers saying this is the case.
  • Most of the issues faced by the disabled self-employed, such as late payment, are shared by the whole sector.
  • Difficulties accessing benefits through the Work Capability Assessment have a major impact limiting disabled people in self-employment as does a poor understanding of self-employment.

Like the rest of the self-employed sector, disabled people face confusion from government and a lack of clarity about regulations as well as late payment, which the report says should be challenged by increased powers for the Small Business Commissioner. But beyond these challenges they face specific issues.

The report issues a number of disability specific recommendations for government and support organisations, including:

  • A re-design of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) with a broad range of physical and mental health conditions considered, to reduce the chance of wrong decisions in the assessment process.
  • Better publicity for the Access to Work programme, which is often described as ‘best kept secret for supporting disabled people in work’.
  • Support organisations such as charities, trade association and trade unions to help disabled people access mentoring and tailored support.

John Paul McHugh, Assistant General Secretary at Community, said: The growth in the number of disabled people becoming self-employed shows no signs of slowing. It’s no surprise when this report found a majority had a positive view of self-employment and intended to stay in it for the long-term.

“However, it’s clear not enough is being done by government to help disabled people to make a success of this way of working. Partnering with like-minded organisations and charities, we believe we can create a better working world for disabled people through self-employment but that also needs the right focus and policies from government. This report sets out the steps that should be taken.”


Jonathan Lima-Matthews, Head of Public Affairs at IPSE, said: “Working for themselves is an overwhelmingly positive choice for disabled people. They can enjoy the freedom to work when, where and, crucially, how they want – something many told us they couldn’t do in permanent employment.

“The Government says it wants to help people get into work, but ministers are letting disabled people down by failing to support them to be their own boss. It’s time for it to turn this around and give disabled businesspeople striking out for themselves the support they need.”

Download ‘Making self-employment work for disabled people’ here


  1. The report draws on interviews with disabled self-employed people, interviews with experts and data from the ONS.
  2. The report was funded by the Trade Union Congress’ Union Learning Fund (ULF), which supports union learning projects to transform the lives of their members.
  3. IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, is the representative body for the UK’s self-employed community, including freelancers, contractors, consultants and independent professionals.
  4. Community is the modern union for a changing world, representing workers across the UK economy in traditional industries and emerging sectors. The National League of the Blind and Disabled is a section of Community.
  5. Contact: Matt Ball (Community) 07799772250, and IPSE 0203 053 0606.