Scholarships & funding opportunities

Entrepreneurship and Disability: A solution or continuation of disadvantage for people with disabilities in the labour market?

  • Number of scholarships 1
  • Value £14,296 (pa for 3 years)
  • Opens 4 February 2016
  • Deadline 31 May 2016
  • Help with Tuition fees, Living costs
  • Duration 36 months


Candidates should have a good Honours degree (minimum 2:1) and/or a Master’s degree in a social science, health-related or business/management discipline. They may also have appropriate experience, or other skills which are relevant to this project.

Project Details

The Project

The project proposes to explore the experiences of disabled people entering self-employment and entrepreneurship during an era of welfare retrenchment and enterprise policy. In particular,

Pathways into self-employment / entrepreneurship –What are the push and pull factors that lead to self-employment among this disadvantaged group? This can include experiences in standard employment, changes to the benefit system etc.

Experiences of self-employment  / entrepreneurship – What are the experiences of those that choose self employment of support such as business advice services, charitable organisations in setting up a business. What is their general experience of self-employment in terms of income, job satisfaction, flexibility etc.

Challenges and opportunities of self-employment  / entrepreneurship – What are the challenges and opportunities facing disabled people with regard to self employment ? How are these diversified across particular socio-economic and cultural groups, and by form of disability.


Supervision team

Professor Sarah Dodd (Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship)

Professor Ian Cunningham (Department of Human Resource Management)


Further Information

Around 30% of the UK working age population report a long-standing illness or impairment (Jones and Wass, 2013).  Among those classified as having a ‘work-limiting disability’, 49.8% are economically active, with an employment rate of 42.1%. This compares with 84% economically active among those not long-term disabled, and an employment rate of 77.8% (Office of National Statistics, 2015).

Entrepreneurship and self-employment has long been seen as a route for disadvantaged groups to enter the labour market (Harris, et al, 2014), and as a way for them to escape poverty, marginalisation and achieve a better balance between disability status and working life (Pagan, 2009). The disabled are more likely to be self-employed than the non-disabled, especially the most severely disabled (Pagan, 2009), and their enterprises to be largely micro-enterprises and home-based (Cooney, 2008). Yet self-employment is characterised by higher job stress, hard work, long hours, emotional energy and high risk. (Butter, 1992). Barriers to self-employment include limited work history, misconceptions regarding the abilities of disabled people as business owners, gender, education, lack of training, finance and business support, and the loss of benefits (Hwang and Roulstone, 2015: Harris, et al, 2014).

Theoretically, disability research’s social model focuses on the barriers in society that hinder participation for people with impairments. The social model locates disability and discrimination as a result of the values of society, modes of production, political economy, physical environments, and the welfare system (Oliver, 1990).

Public service austerity aims at reducing government deficits through cutting public expenditures (Bach, 2012: Clarke and Newman, 2012). This has had significant implications for the welfare and benefits system for disabled people in the UK. The current economic context and welfare and benefit changes demand nnovative approaches to increasing labour market participation for disabled people, including social entrepreneurship (Harris, Renko and Caldwell, 2014).

We propose engaged, longitudinal methodologies, to facilitate participants in the articulation of their own health-related life-world narratives. Medical sociologists have noted the success which practitioners have experienced in developing culturally competent narratives through building long term patient relationships, and in making use of “natural” embedded community networks as the site of study (Lo, 2010).

How to apply

As well as a CV and relevant qualification transcripts, applications must be accompanied by a cover letter indicating what they feel they might contribute to our research conversation. An interest in disability and / or entrepreneurship is considered essential.


Applications to: