Remploy update – segregation or unemployment?

The WEA works on the principle that equality, diversity and inclusion are better for everyone and I blogged in August 2012 on The Paralympics, ATOS and Remploy. The blog is here.

At the time I wrote that:

The Government’s rationale for the factory closures is that disabled people shouldn’t be segregated at work.

The test will be what happens to the workers who lose their jobs and whether suitable alternatives really are available in integrated workplaces.

The last three Remploy factories in Blackburn, Sheffield and Neath closed on 31 October ending 60 years of specialist employment for people with a disability. The final closures put 150 more people out of work and marked the end of a decline since the late 1980s when Remploy employed more than 10,000, mostly disabled, people across 94 sites.

Statistics are available now to show what’s happened so far to ex-employees. A feature on page 5, Issue 1352, of Private Eye reports that 1,326 people, two thirds of workers who lost their jobs when the factories closed, are still unemployed or found work and lost it again.

Other online information available on the progress of people who worked in the 48 factories that have already closed, also suggests that the overwhelming majority have not found new jobs, although the detailed statistics are not consistent. Presumably the figures change on a daily basis, so represent snapshots at different times, but they are indicative. They don’t include people affected by the last three factory closures.

  • 2,580 Remploy employees have been made redundant.
  • 1,940 of these employees are disabled.
  • 390 disabled employees have transferred to new employers.

Remploy Employment Services, who are providing support and guidance, have been guaranteed government funding until 2015 but the decision as to who will own it after this point is still being decided.

Some workers in Halifax and Wales have invested their redundancy money in creating new businesses with their former colleagues and still work in segregated workplaces, albeit for themselves. In one case they are even working in the former Remploy factory at Fforestbach.

There’s a fairly balanced commentary here outlining the actions and decisions of successive governments and some of the financial arguments.

This quotation from the ITV News website here summarises the conflicting attitudes behind the decision to close the factories:

For some, it represents a long-overdue progression from paternalistic attitudes towards disability and work; for others an unforgivable betrayal.

Considering the ethics, personal and social impact as well as the economics of segregated employment versus unemployment is important but, whatever it represents to observers and commentators, the situation is a reality for ex-employees and their families as they face an uncertain future.