KIRKLEES jobseekers who want to become self-employed have been given a boost.

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.

The rule change should benefit many jobhunters in Kirklees, according to the Huddersfield-based West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency, which delivers the national scheme in West Yorkshire in partnership with Jobcentre Plus for jobseekers who want to pursue self-employment.

The agency, which is the enterprise arm of the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, has seen a doubling in referrals from Jobcentres across Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield during October 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 the chamber area signed-off jobseekers allowance to start their own business under the New Enterprise Allowance.

The agency has now helped 106 jobseekers from Wakefield, 84 from Kirklees and 38 from Calderdale to go it alone.

As part of his announcement, Mr Hoban also 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.”

He said: “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.