Sole Survivor: Why is business start-up loans just for ‘upstarts’?

I MUST ADMIT that I do like the idea of a small, low-interest rate loan for those really serious about starting their own business – just like the StartUp Loans scheme announced by the government at the end of last month.

The StartUp Loans scheme is described as giving “our next generation of entrepreneurs the finance and support to potentially start over 30 thousand new businesses, in a move to boost enterprise and economic growth”.

Brilliant and very good news for the younger generation – the loans are available to those aged between 16 and 24. But let’s not write off the current generations that still have a lot of life in them.

What is an oldie? By default, the definition implied by the government seems to be anyone over 24. That seems rather young to stop encouraging entrepreneurialism. Couple that with an increasing retirement age – and surely there is a need to actively encourage entrepreneurialism at all ages.

I didn’t start my business until I was in my forties. Such a pity that the Age Discrimination Act only applies to work. It seems that there could be a good case to answer as to why such loans should be restricted to those aged under 25. Surely, there is a positive cost / benefit case to be made for getting any person, whatever age, off the dole queue.

While absolutely accepting that there is a need to give the young a start, especially in view of the lack of roles or job opportunities for them (gone are the days of apprenticeships that existed in my youth), let’s give some thought to those out of work at all ages.

In March 2012, there were 2.66 million unemployed people, according to the official statistics.

39% of these were under 25 – the same percentage as the rate of unemployment amongst the 35 to 64-year-olds. It shouldn’t take an accountant to work out that the large majority of the total unemployed were over 25.

Is it fair to argue that there are different but just as many reasons that those over 35 can struggle to find work as those under 25? So why not provide the opportunity of a start-up loans to them as well?

Maybe there is an expectation that the unemployed oldies would have access to start-up funds. But is this really true? There are many pulls on the funds of oldies, such as mortgages, supporting children, paying university fees and saving for retirement to name but a few.

So why not give them a helping hand?

I absolutely love the start-up loan scheme, but please make it available to anyone who is out of work – whatever age.

Elaine Clark is a chartered accountant and MD of accountancy practice She blogs on the issues facing smaller practices and their clients

Image credit: Shutterstock

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