News! Former Navy Commander Champions Self-Employment

The Work for Yourself programme will be supporting the Armed Forces Veterans Event being held at the Proact Stadium, Chesterfield on Friday 28 March. Amongst other organisations that help ex-service people, their stand will offer professional business advice for anyone thinking about self-employment plus lots of examples of people who have succeeded.

The programme is led by Navy veteran, Penny Melville-Brown, who served until 1999 when she was medically discharged due to her failing eyesight. She set up her business, Disability Dynamics Ltd, to improve the job prospects for others in similar situations. One of her flagship activities has been delivering the Work for Yourself programme in Derbyshire since 2008: supporting people with long-term health conditions and disabilities to start their own businesses.

"I had a wonderful career in the Royal Navy," Penny said, "I did everything from NATO intelligence and war planning to working in the Ministry of Defence and becoming the Navy's first female barrister. Even when I started to go blind, I was still working in Portsmouth Naval Base - in uniform but with a white cane. The Service was very supportive and I even got promoted to Commander but it was clear that a longer term career wasn't going to work. Facing civilian life was terrifying as getting work seemed impossible so I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage and would lose my home. Self-employment seemed to be the only prospect."

After several years of running employment projects, disability training and consultancy, Penny teamed up with colleagues to design the self-employment programme as she explained, "We spent years trying to persuade Government Ministers and officials that this is an essential work option for people who often face difficulties getting jobs - and the Census data shows that we are right: there is a higher proportion of working disabled people in self-employment than others. We spent a lot of time trying to get mainstream business support more available for disabled people and then decided to do it ourselves. We have been running the programme in Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough for about five years and had hundreds of local people contact us and have helped many successful new businesses get started."

The current Work for Yourself programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund plus the two Councils. You can find out more and see success stories at www.businessability.co.uk or contact Theresa on 0845 459 2547, 07446 366391 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Since leaving the Service, Penny has been an advocate for other war pensioners with the Veterans Agency, ex-service charities and the Ministry of Defence. She was awarded an OBE for her services to disabled and other disadvantaged people.