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Comment: More help for the self-employed

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The growth in self-employment appears to be more than a cyclical phenomenon, so choice and flexibility are vital

Setting up a self-employed business venture or becoming a contractor can be a daunting prospect yet more and more people are taking this step. Indeed, the number of self-employed people in the UK is at its highest for 40 years.

Technology ensures it is easier to research ideas, breach new markets and gain a wider client base through a variety of media. And there are no signs of an immediate slowdown.

As outlined in a recent report from the Federation of Small Businesses, the growth in self-employment appears to be more than a cyclical phenomenon.

Rather, it amounts to a structural reshaping of the economy and labour market that began in the early 1980s and, after a short period where self-employment flatlined and fell in the 1990s, re-emerged in the early 2000s.

However, this quest for independence and fulfilment of entrepreneurial aspirations can come at a cost. The report also found that one in five had experienced difficulties accessing a mortgage because they were self-employed.

This number rose to 40 per cent when considering only those who had attempted to apply for a mortgage. Meanwhile, 14 per cent experienced problems trying to get a business loan while 13 per cent highlighted problems when applying for a personal loan.

The self-employed community is likely only to grow further and it is vital that the financial services sector realises this trend. Choice and flexibility are crucial in meeting their borrowing requirements.

Further action is required from the Government and regulator, alongside the support of lenders, to help overcome barriers currently preventing this important element of society from accessing the right types of product to better secure their financial futures.

Jackie Uhi is managing director, mortgage distribution, at Barclays

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