Call for 'radical simplification' of access to entrepreneurship to support disabled entrepreneurs

Call for 'radical simplification' of access to entrepreneurship to support disabled entrepreneurs
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Tue 21st May 2024

Poor access to funding and the 'burden of proof of disability' are among barriers that need to be tackled to unlock £230bn in business revenue from disabled entrepreneurs.

That's the finding of the interim report from the Lilac Review, a government-backed independent review set up to tackle the inequality faced by disabled-led businesses.

Although disabled founders represent 25% of the UK's 5.5m small business owners, they account for only 8.6% of business turnover. The report said £230bn of revenue could be unlocked if they were better supported.

The review found that processes to access business support, finance and welfare are inaccessible for disabled entrepreneurs, such as registering with HM Revenue & Customs, signing up with Companies House and getting a website.

Disabled founders are also burdened by the requirement to repeatedly prove that they are disabled or "disabled enough" to get support, and the number of disabled entrepreneurs applying for grants is much lower than non-disabled entrepreneurs.

Recommendations to support disabled entrepreneurs

The Lilac Review made several recommendations including a "radical simplification" of processes and requirements for government programmes and support.

It also said disabled entrepreneurs should be included in the design of government schemes and financial products, and there should be a move from a proof-based approach to a trust-based approach for assessing eligibility for disabled welfare benefits.

This change, the report said, would "reduce the administration cost to Department for Work and Pensions and the pressure and stress on entrepreneurs".

Another recommendation was creating targeted mentoring and networking schemes to overcome disabled founders' feelings of "isolation, loneliness and not being heard".

The co-chair of the Lilac Review is Victoria Jenkins, founder of adaptive clothing brand Unhidden and Enterprise Nation's 2021 Female Start-up of the Year. She said:

"Disabled entrepreneurs are not asking to be given special treatment. What we want is to be given equal access to opportunities, so we are free simply to be entrepreneurs and to grow our business to the best of our ambition and abilities.

"By bringing down barriers, by taking away inaccessible gateways, by taking away the burden of constant proof and by starting to create products and services with specific needs in mind, we can create a more equitable world for disabled entrepreneurs.

"There is no one single solution to accessibility, just as there is no one single experience of disability, so we must involve founders across a wide spectrum in the creation of these services."

 Small business minister Kevin Hollinrake added:

"Starting a business can be daunting. However, anyone who wants to should be able to follow their entrepreneurial spirit and take on that challenge .The Lilac Review interim report has set out where government and industry can lead the way in tearing down the unnecessary barriers facing disabled entrepreneurs.

"This action will contribute to our commitment to make the UK the best place for anyone to start and scale up their own business."

Also on the steering board of the Lilac Review is Enterprise Nation member and chronic illness business mentor Sarah Berthon.

She recently delivered a webinar on how to effectively run a business with a chronic illness.

The Lilac Review interim research report was developed in collaboration with Small Business Britain and ARU Peterborough, with support from Lloyds Bank.

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Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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