By Daniel Hunter

There has been a sharp rise in the number of Welsh jobseekers starting their own businesses, according to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The government claims the number of Welsh jobseekers using its New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is up by 50%.

A total of 3,740 new businesses have been created through the scheme in Wales since it was introduced in April 2011, with benefit claimants becoming their own boss on 1,310 occasions in the last 12 months alone.

Across Britain almost 70,000 new businesses have been set up under the NEA scheme, which provides benefit claimants who have a solid business idea with seed funding and a business mentor.

Figures show the most entrepreneurial benefit claimants are based in the North of England, however the 53.9% rise in the scheme’s take-up in Wales since March 2014 is the fourth highest of all nations and English regions, and exceeds the British average of 50.8%.

The NEA helps jobseekers, lone parents and people on sickness benefits with a good idea to set up their own business. People on the scheme get expert help and advice from a business mentor who will help them to develop their business idea and write a business plan. If the business plan is approved, they are eligible for financial support payable through a weekly allowance over 26 weeks up to a total of £1,274.

DWP Employment Minister, Priti Patel, said: "Starting up in business successfully needs so much more than just funding — it needs the right support and advice at the right time, and we’re doing just that through the New Enterprise Allowance scheme.

"We will ensure that every part of Britain, including Wales, benefits from a growing economy and that everyone who works hard gets the opportunities they need to succeed."

Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb, said: "The New Enterprise Allowance scheme is transforming lives across Wales - rewarding ambition and aspiration with opportunities and support.

"It is great that so many people in Wales are choosing to escape from benefits by becoming part of the next generation of entrepreneurs. People like Rudi Thomas from Prestatyn who used the New Enterprise Allowance to launch Crofters Café in Lower Grownant, and Meurig Davies from Ceredigion who opened an antiques business in Aberaeron. These people and many others are turning their ideas and dreams into sustainable businesses."