The Scheme for the Creation and Operation of Small Units for Self-Employment of Persons with Disabilities provides start-up grants of up to EUR 8 543 to persons with disabilities moving into self-employment. The scheme is operated by the Department for Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, which is part of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance.
The scheme was created in 2008 in response to the difficulties faced by people with disabilities in seeking salaried employment. By supporting the creation of small businesses by people with disabilities, it aims to facilitate their inclusion in the labour market and enhance their quality of life.
The Scheme for the Creation and Operation of Small Units (SU) for Self-Employment of Persons with Disabilities is open to individuals between 18 and 63 years old with a physical, mental or sensory disability or illness that strongly reduces their opportunities for employment. The scheme is available to Cypriot citizens, European Union citizens with 12 consecutive months of permanent residence in Cyprus and third-country nationals with a refugee status in Cyprus. The scheme covers all sectors, but priority is given to businesses related to telecommunications, information technology, trade, repair of cars and personal or household goods, hotels and restaurants. Applicants are asked to submit a form including information on their employment history, an overview of their proposed enterprise, and a medical certificate on their disability. They also need to provide a feasibility study describing their business plan for the first three years of operation and different funding sources (including the grants). Applicants are evaluated on the viability of their business plan, particularly for the first two years of operation. Some applicants may also undergo an assessment to evaluate their disability with regards to legal requirements for receiving support, assess its impact on their work capabilities and confirm necessary workplace intervention needed to support them. The decisions are made by a 5-person committee which involves the disability community through 2 representatives of the Cyprus Confederation of Organisations of the Disabled. The amount of the grant is decided on a case by case basis. The grants are disbursed through the Special Fund of the Vocational Centre Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities.
Beneficiaries’ businesses are monitored after receiving the grant. Support is offered by the Department in charge of the scheme and other relevant services as necessary to help solve problems they may encounter and enhance their chances of success.
The programme is small in scale but has been active for over ten years. Over 2008-21, 61 Small Units (SU) were approved, with a total expenditure of about EUR 300 000. Out of the 41 SUs approved for the programme over 2008-19, 24 were still operating, 10 had closed, and 2 did not go through with the creation of the SU and did not receive the funding. In addition, 5 beneficiaries could net be contacted to verify the status of their business. The beneficiaries of the programme were diverse in terms of their disability, including entrepreneurs with Auditory (2), Visual (5), Intellectual/Cognitive (2), Somatic (2), Mental/Psychological (8) and Motor (22) disabilities/impairments. The programme is deemed very successful in opening up access to self-employment to people with various disabilities. As it is extremely difficult for these entrepreneurs to secure loans, the grant was the only funding option for many. Programme managers also report that participants have shown very positive outcome in terms of income, ability to sustain work but also well-being, notably through increased happiness, social engagement and “feeling useful”.
- Christofides, N. and ICF (2020), Peer Country Comments – Cyprus, Mutual Learning Programme: DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
- Pashardes, P. (2009), Minimum income schemes: a study of National Policies, Peer review in social protection and social inclusion and assessment in social inclusion, European Commission DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
- Department for Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (2021), “Scheme for the Creation and Operation of Small Units for Self-Employment Purposes of Persons with Disabilities” www.mlsi.gov.cy/mlsi/dsid/dsid.nsf/dsipd27_en/dsipd27_en?OpenDocument
- Monadikaxamogela (2021), “Department for Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities”, www.monadikaxamogela.org/department-of-social-inclusion-of-people-with-disabilities/.
- Charalambous, C. (2021), informal exchange of information with OECD.