It is sometimes said that starting a business is the last great adventure that is still open to everyone. And yet, setting up a business is rarely a walk in the park. For those of us with a disability, there can be many, seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the way. But is that really the case? Here's a quick overview of the support available.
A viable alternative
How many aspiring entrepreneurs have been encouraged to give up their dreams by those close to them? “It’s hell being self-employed”, “It’ll be a disaster and you’ll end up homeless”, “Look at your cousin, he pays so much in tax and never has a holiday”…
Apart from people with self-employed parents (and maybe even them as well!), everyone with a project in the pipeline will have been confronted by these well-intentioned warnings at some point. This is especially the case for people with a disability, of whom loved ones sometimes tend to be a little over-protective. However, being an entrepreneur can be a good alternative to being a salaried worker: you can work from home in an environment suited to your needs, you can have more flexible hours and working times, you can work on something that really motivates you, and much more besides.
People with a disability often have highly developed skills which are crucial for being an entrepreneur: tenacity (all business owners will testify that you need plenty of this!), adaptability, patience, and so on. Having been through challenging times can end up being a great springboard towards business ownership.
A helping hand to get you started
In Brussels, there are some specific measures provided by the PHARE service to help your get your business started.
The PHARE Service is the administrative arm of the COCOF (Commission communautaire française/French Community Commission), which is responsible for policies for people with a disability. In order to submit an application to PHARE, you first need to have been admitted to PHARE (your disability needs to have been acknowledged).
Four different measures can be used to support entrepreneurs with their procedures.
1. SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE IN PROFESSIONAL TRAINING
If you want professional training before starting your business, PHARE offers range of support and assistance initiatives.
2. SETTING UP BONUS
The goal of the setting up bonus is to help anyone with a disability who wants to set themselves up as a self-employed worker in the Brussels-Capital Region, or who is returning to self-employed work following an accident or illness, or who is attempting keep their business going if it is jeopardised by their disability by granting a bonus to compensate for their loss of income.
This financial bonus is granted to the person with a disability for a fixed period.
This is determined by a percentage of the average minimum monthly income as guaranteed by collective bargaining agreement no. 43 of 2 May 1988, without exceeding 50% thereof. This percentage equates to the loss of income of the applicant. It is fixed for one year and can be extended depending on whether the loss of income persists.
3. ADAPTING THE WORKSPACE
This initiative is designed to cover the costs incurred by people with a disability in adapting their workspace as required. If specialised equipment is needed, the payment covers the difference between the cost incurred and the cost of a standard piece of equipment.
4. COMPENSATION FOR TRAVEL COSTS
This financial compensation is granted by the PHARE Service in the event of additional costs incurred travelling to the workplace as a result of the disability. The person must be unable, as a result of their disability, to use or access public transport on their own. These costs must be the result of additional expenses related to the disability.
Obviously, people with a disability can also access public support available to all entrepreneurs:
- Access to information through the 1819 service
- Assistance from a support structureto help in preparing your project (endorsement of business idea, market research, business plan, funding requests, etc.)
- Test your project with a business cooperative
- Request public funding
- Access regional subsidiesfor companies
- Take advantage of the infrastructure at public business centresand incubators
Beware! Becoming self-employed will result in a change in the entrepreneur's income. It is therefore possible that the project developer and their household may lose certain benefits they are currently receiving.
Before launching your self-employed business, make an appointment with the social services department of the DGPH (Direction Générale Personnes Handicapées/General Directorate for People with a Disability), your municipality, the CPAS (Centre public d'action sociale/Public Centre for Social Welfare) or your health insurance company. These departments will look at your situation and carry out a simulation based on your expected income. This will enable you to make a decision with full knowledge of the facts!
HOW TO CONTACT THE SOCIAL SERVICE DEPARTMENT OF THE DGPH
By email, phone or at temporary drop-in centres. All information available on this website.