The NEA scheme is aimed at helping unemployed people or benefit claimants become their own boss. It offers claimants a personal business mentor, weekly living allowance and funding of up to £25,000 for their business idea.
New Government figures show a total of 209,000 benefit claimants have been supported since the scheme was launched in 2011, with over 130,000 businesses set up as a result – nearly 20,000 in the last two years alone.
Older claimants, disabled people and those in the North West in particular have shown entrepreneurial skills and have seized the chance to be their own boss.
Almost a quarter of all businesses created have been started by disabled claimants (over 29,000), with the same proportion started by those aged over 50 (31,000).
The scheme has also provided a platform for budding entrepreneurs from ethnic minority groups. Of all businesses started since 2011, almost 14 per cent were launched by a person from a black and minority ethnic (BAME) background.
The North West proved itself to be the most entrepreneurial region, with almost 20,000 businesses launched by claimants since the scheme began. London and Yorkshire and Humberside were close behind, with an entrepreneurial boost of 15,370 and 13,700 new businesses respectively.
The new figures come as small businesses across Britain have boomed in recent years. There are over 570,000 more ‘micro’ enterprises (with nine or fewer staff) based in Great Britain since 2011 – an increase of almost a third.
The number of self-employed people in the UK also reached a record of almost five million in June according to latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures – with construction the most common industry, followed by science and technology and retail.
These figures were welcomed by freelancer and self-eployed group, IPSE,
who saw the scheme as a 'vital tool' for the self-employed, particularly those with disabilities and called on the Government to extend it and promote it better.
IPSE’s Jonathan Lima-Matthews, said: “The NEA is one of the most important tools in the armoury of a person starting out in self-employment. It is excellent to see so many people across the UK making use of it.
“Self-employment is a liberating choice for many groups who might not otherwise fit into the confines of a standard 9-5 office job – including disabled people and older workers. These figures show just how important the NEA is for these groups.
“Part of the problem with the NEA is not enough people know about it. The NEA offers essential support for disabled self-employed in particular, and yet for some time uptake figures have been relatively low. These figures show that this is starting to change, but the government should still do more to promote it.
“Although early support for the self-employed is extremely welcome, it would also greatly help freelancers to firmly establish their businesses if NEA benefits and mentoring were extended to two years. This would be a big step towards securing the future of our growing and dynamic flexible workforce.”
NEA is available to people claiming certain benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.
Participants in the scheme get a mentor to help with a business plan. Once they start to trade, they also have a mentor for the first year.
Cash support is available through the scheme for up to 26 weeks, with a weekly allowance of £65 paid for the first 13 weeks, followed by £33 per week for the remaining 13 weeks. Claimants may also be able to access a start-up loan of up £25,000.
For further information on NEA, see here.
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2019