Former miner turns entrepreneur One man's struggle to earn a living and support his family is the driving force behind S&S Cars run by Simon Almond from Shirebrook.  Many will recognise his history and be inspired by what he has achieved with some help from Bolsover District Council. Early in life both Simon's legs and hips were broken in a motor accident - giving him a permanent limp with one leg several inches shorter than the other.  But he still managed to work for nearly 15 years as a miner until the pits and collieries in Derbyshire and Yorkshire closed in the 1990s.  Undaunted, he moved in to the building trade and worked up from a general labourer to site foreman.  But, by about 2003, his original injuries had damaged his spine - reducing his mobility and the physical work he could do.  Simon was still determined to keep working so found a new job as a supervisor in a plastics extrusion factory and then moved on to driving a tractor.  Eventually his health got so bad he had to stop work: he now has arthritis in both knees, lung problems after years of breathing in dust and damage to his hands.      Some people might have thought that it was time to give up - but not Simon.  He took advantage of the "permitted work" scheme which meant he could do some limited work and still keep his benefits.  He explained, “I bought my first mini-bus in 2010 and became part-time self-employed.  It isn't heavy work and I could choose how much I could do.  I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people and finding new places.” “By last November, I knew that I could manage this new sort of work and came off benefits.  I have the private hire licence and very comprehensive insurance.  I bought a second mini-bus which was specially adapted by Cabmobility: there are steps for customers to get in, lots of hand rails and extra space plus room for folding wheel chairs and other walking aids in the boot.  I know just how it feels to have problems getting around so this is my chance to help others and put a bit back in to the community.  I already work with a local residential home for people with mental health conditions.” Simon is making plans for his next mini-bus: he wants one that can be used by people sitting in their wheel-chairs so that they can travel with their friends and family. The extra services that he gives explain Simon's repeat business: “We do some early airport trips.  We can give the customer a call to make sure that they are awake and ready to go.  We know that they can be rushing around before they go abroad so we check that they have their passports, currency and have locked everything up.  When they get back, we've got some fresh milk for their tea when they get home.  We play DVDs if there are children so that they don't get bored.  Customers want lots of trips to the coast and closer to home.  We've got the latest satellite navigation systems - but keep map books on board just in case.” Although Simon receives several medical pensions, he has no interest in giving up work and commented, "If you don't keep on, you just end up sitting in a chair doing nothing and getting depressed.  When you've worked since you were 16, it's hard not to work.  Now I have started a family business with my wife helping with the books and one of my sons driving when needed.  I started with nowt but now we're going from strength to strength."
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