Breaking Free from Benefits, Flexible Working and Self-Employment

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Julie Hawkins, Founder of the Single Mums Business Network and Non-Executive Director of ASPN, has a valuable webinar on Breaking Free from Benefits, Flexible Working and Self-Employment. Drawing from her journey as a single mum, Julie highlights the challenges of navigating the world of work as a primary carer, whether it’s in employment or when setting up or running your own business. The webinar provides practical steps and signposting for single parents who are seeking financial independence.

Julie recommends several flexible working agencies which are inclusive for single parents, individuals with disabilities and others. These agencies include:

  • Ten2Two – they match part-time, flexible and hybrid professionals with progressive businesses that need talent and experienced people
  • 923 Jobs – a recruitment consultancy passionate about breaking the conventions of the 9 to 5. They place talented professionals into flexible roles, as well as help businesses embed and embrace flexible working
  • CJ Talent – they are specialists in providing quality recruitment solutions for part-time, hybrid and flexible work
  • That Works for Me – an agency specifically dedicated to helping parents find work
  • Flexible Working People – a site for individuals searching for flexible work which includes resources on getting your LinkedIn job ready and how to apply for flexible working. They also run a Flexible Working People Facebook group where you can share your experiences and challenges, as well as get advice and build your network
  • TIMEWISE – a social enterprise working with employers, candidates, policymakers and influencers to create stronger workplaces which are powered by flexible working. They offer reports and insights into why flexible working works and share opportunities on their job site
  • Investing in Women – a website for women to search for flexible, part-time and work from home jobs. Their blog also offers great resources and their podcast ‘Work It Like a Mum’ provides inspiration, confidence and tips

Julie emphasises that it’s hard and stressful trying to be financially independent but having to rely on benefits is not your fault but the fault of the system in the UK.

The webinar also mentions the danger of MLM (multi-level-marketing) schemes in which vulnerable single parents are targeted by unethical companies with the promise of running their own business from home for free, however, these schemes don’t allow you to make your own business decisions and it’s not achievable to get a full-time income due to the saturated market.

Julie also offers a lot of advice and signposting for those planning to set up and sustain freelancing or a small business such as utilising your existing skills, developing your abilities through flexible education with The Open University and leveraging networking opportunities.

While a lot of workshops charge money, there are ways to get free resources and support for your small business by searching sites such as the Local Enterprise Partnership NetworkEnterprise NationSmall Business Saturday UK and The Federation of Small Businesses.

It’s important to follow government guidance when setting up your business such as making sure to register for self-employment if you have earned more than £1000 in the last tax year (from 6 April to 5 April).

If you receive benefits and want to run your own business, there are some steps you need to follow to ensure your benefit payments are not stopped. Once you’ve established what you want to do and present your plan to your work coach, you will then have 12 months before the minimum income floor kicks in. The government website has useful guidance on claiming Universal Credit when you’re self-employed

To get a deeper insight into flexible employment and self-employment, as well as Julie’s first-hand experience breaking free from benefits, watch the webinar on Julie’s YouTube channel.

Julie has also published a book titled ‘Breaking out of Benefits Jail’ which is packed full of signposting, information and advice.