15 February 2017

Giving evidence at Parliament


Jane Cordell on the Work and Pensions Select Committee enquiry into self-employment and the gig economy.

A year ago I had never taken part in a formal event at Parliament. Over the past 10 months I have participated in four events –two for the Work and Pensions Select Committee and two for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Disability plus a Green Paper round-table consultation led by MP, Heidi Allen. I have learned a lot about Parliamentary processes and have renewed and strengthened my respect for the demanding job the MPs and peers in these groups do on top of multiple other roles.

On 6 February the Committee hearing was about self-employment. The panel before ours consisted of people who had done 'gig' work for organisations such as Uber and Hermes (delivery firm). It was clear that the high costs and risks involved in such work made it extremely difficult to make a living, especially in London.

All of us on our panel - Robert Winstanley, Sara McKee and I were entrepreneurs who had disabilities. The Committee was interested in whether self-employment could offer more choices to people with disabilities. I was glad to see the Committee integrating this theme into a 'mainstream' enquiry. Too often disability tends to be considered separately.

Here are the main points I made:

- Making the choice to be an entrepreneur should be based on an individual͛s skills and motivation rather than the fact they are disabled

- Access to Work – the central discretionary grant pot held at the Department of Work and Pensions – needs to recognize the unpredictable nature of running a business and support disabled people to do this. It also needs to be careful about (as is planned) uniformly capping support. The principle behind this of spreading the available pot more widely does not work. People are diverse and have very varied needs. (And I understand it from the Green Paper round table with disability charities, AtW has in fact underspent its budget by around £70 million). Doing this risked preventing some of the busiest and most senior disabled individuals fulfilling their potential including as rare and valuable role models to others
- I explained that my own varied career had been strongly influenced by discrimination on the part of two previous employers. I said leaving the security of full-time employment was not an easy thing to do– but that the rewards in terms of a balanced life and fulfilment – were significant.

Read more on the Disability News Service website.

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