Supported Business

Supported Business

Supported businesses are enterprises where over 50% of their workforce have a disability. The definition is recognised across Europe and referred to in European regulations. 

Supported Businesses and BASE

Mel Walls is the National Lead for Supported Businesses for BASE NEC, she provides a link to the Supported Business Steering Group that acts as a voice for Supported Businesses across the UK and is developing the use of Access to Work and TESG across the sector.  

Article 19 of Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31st March 2004 allowed procurement officers to "reserve" contracts so that only supported businesses can compete for them. Contracts cannot be reserved for a specific organisation and all bids from supported factories and businesses submitted under the reserved contracts arrangements are still assessed on a value for money basis, with award to the bid offering the best value for money.

Article 19 has been replaced by Article 20 Regulation 21 which allows for reserved contracts where over 30% of the workforce of organisations are disadvantaged.

Supported Business in England

Since 2010 there has been no progress on frameworks at all in England. The Supported Business Steering Group (SBSG) brings together a range of organisations to secure sustainable funding for Supported Businesses and it is working with DWP on a proof of concept to test new funding mechanisms. There's more information on our policy page

BASE has been working with procurement officials in Scotland and Wales to create framework agreements. Contracting authorities can reserve a lot or category within a framework for supported factories and businesses to compete for. Where permitted, contracting authorities can also utilise existing framework agreements that use supported factories or businesses.

Supported Business in Scotland 

A great deal of progress has been made in Scotland where four framework agreements are now in place covering furniture, document management, textiles and signage. The Scottish Government established a Supported Business Advisory Group chaired by Fergus Ewing MSP which BASE attends. This work was acknowledged at the 2013 Procurex Awards where BASE Scotland were highly commended in the Sustainability / CSR Initiative of the Year award category after winning the award in 2011. The framework will continue in Scotland until September 2018.

Supported Business in Wales 

Things have been a bit hit and miss in Wales. There are no current framework agreements in place but there's a lot of support from officials. Supported businesses featured highly in the Welsh Government's Framework for Action on Independent Living. The Welsh Government has issued new guidance on reserved contracts in March 2021.

Supported Business Directory

A number of our members manage supported businesses. This page offers an update on the activity that BASE engages in to promote their work. 

Each Supported Business historically had an allocated volume of Protected Places which received funding of £4,800 per place. This funding ceased in 2019 when Work Choice was replaced by the Work and Health Programme in England and ‘Fair Start Scotland’ in Scotland. Neither of these programmes has a remit to fund protected places. 

BASE has been working with DWP through the Supported Business Steering Group to address the ongoing funding of Supported Businesses. Businesses are currently funded at £5,000 per place through the Transitional Employer Support Grant (TESG) which is managed by DWP's Access to Work team. We are working to create a sustainable funding stream for Supported Businesses and an Access to Work Plus Proof of Concept is due to begin in 2022.


Latest news

Queries put to DWP (February 2022)

Policy update (December 2021)

Policy update (July 2021)

Policy update (January 2021)

Supported Business meeting slides (10 Dec 2020)

Policy update (November 2020)

Policy update (Sept 2020)

Workshop powerpoint slides (30 June 2020)

Covid-19 update (May 2020)

Covid-19 update (April 2020)

Policy update (March 2020)

TESG Covid Payment Guide

Policy update (November 2019)

Policy update (October 2019)

Policy update (August 2019)



The Supported Business Steering Group (SBSG)

The group meets regularly and current membership is:

  • Martin Davies (Independent Advisor and meeting chair)
  • Sara Bradbury (Enham)
  • Melanie Hercus (Realise Futures)
  • Michelle Ferguson (RBLI)
  • Cathryn Chimes (Unltd)
  • Diane Lightfoot (Business Disability Forum)
  • Kate Dearden (Community Union)
  • Nicola Fellows (Gloucestershire CC)
  • Lucy Findlay (Social Enterprise Mark)
  • Will Garner (Oxfordshire CC)
  • Alistair Kerr (BASE)
  • Jamie Lawson (Haven Products)
  • San Leonard (Social Firms Wales)
  • Linda McIntyre (Watford Workshop)
  • Andrew O'Brien (Social Enterprise UK)
  • Sam Peplow (Yateley Industries)
  • Melanie Walls (BASE)
  • Richard Wellfoot (MTIB)


Transitional arrangements - Transitional Employer Support Grant (TESG)

Following 18 months of discussions between the Steering Group and DWP, an announcement confirming transitional arrangements was made on 31 July 2018. BASE issued a statement in response to the announcement.

The principal points of the announcement were:

  • A commitment of the Government through Esther McVey, then the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Sarah Newton, then the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, to the provision of employment opportunities within Supported Businesses. This will manifest itself in a new payment strand of Access to Work in April 2021.
  • A 2-year transitional arrangement (TESG) from April 2019, the end of Work Choice support. This is funded through a new Access to Work payment of £5,000 per person.
  • Businesses will be able to recruit new employees but funding will be restricted to the baseline numbers set in February 2018.

The announcement commits the Government to work with the SBSG to:

  • Help develop a new quality mark for Supported Businesses
  • To develop a new long-term element of Access to Work to continue support for those already working for a supported business and to help more disabled people join them.

The Support Business Steering Group has been working closely with DWP to find mechanisms to protect the employment of the thousands of disabled people working in Supported Businesses and to create an environment where the Supported Business sector may flourish to create even more opportunities. The Steering Group welcomes the announcement and will continue to work with DWP to clarify operational issues and work towards a long-term plan for the funding of Supported Businesses.

DWP has produced a TESG Covid Payment Guide for Supported Businesses.


Extra Employer Support Grant (EESG) Proof of Concept

This Proof of Concept is due to start in 2020 and will lead to a funding stream to replace the transitional TESG arrangements in 2021. Called Access to Work Plus, it is likely to involve social enterprises as well as Supported Businesses. 

The PoC will be in 2 phases: 

  • Phase 1 will consist of data collection from assessments and financial modelling. Phase 1 was due to be completed by 31st March 2020 but was delayed by the Covid pandemic. 
  • Phase 2 will be PoC live running where PoC SBs can bring in new employees and apply for support using the new funding model.