Jobseekers who want to become self- employed are now able to access support through a Government enterprise scheme earlier than previously allowed.
Under new rules announced by Employment Minister, Mark Hoban, jobseekers are now eligible to join the New Enterprise Allowance scheme from day one of their claim.
Previously anyone who wanted to access the full range of financial support and advice through the scheme had to wait between 13 and 26 weeks to be considered.
West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency delivers the national scheme in West Yorkshire in partnership with Jobcentre Plus for jobseekers who want to pursue self-employment.
Since the change was announced in October, the Agency has seen referrals double from jobcentres across Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield compared with the previous month.
Participants on the scheme are assigned their own business mentor and given access to free start-up workshops to help them write a business plan as they prepare to start trading.
Once they’ve signed-off jobseekers allowance, they can claim weekly payments for their first 26 weeks of trading to help take the financial pressure off as the business grows.
In the 15 months to October, 228 jobseekers across mid Yorkshire signed-off jobseekers allowance to start their own business under the New Enterprise Allowance.
The Agency - the enterprise arm of Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce – has helped 106 jobseekers from Wakefield, 84 from Kirklees and 38 from Calderdale to go it alone.
As part of his announcement, Mr Hoban revealed that more places would be made available on the scheme in a bid to reach the target of 40,000 new start-ups nationally.
Andrew Choi, Executive Director of the Agency said: "It is encouraging to see so many jobseekers pursuing self-employment and the number of people starting their own business in mid Yorkshire just proves what an enterprising area it is.
"This scheme is a fantastic opportunity for jobseekers to access the advice and financial support that they need to get their business idea off the ground and grow to be successful.
"Small and medium sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and we need the Government to continue to invest in schemes like these so we can keep supporting new enterprise."
West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency is still looking for volunteers from the business community to give up an hour every fortnight to mentor participants on the enterprise scheme.