'Betrayed' disabled workers protest against Remploy closures


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The Government was accused today of "betraying" disabled workers over controversial plans to close a number of Remploy factories.

Demonstrations were held by hundreds of Remploy workers outside Government offices in London and Sheffield amid warnings that employees might never work again following the closures.

Unions have attacked the announced closure of 36 of the 54 Remploy sites this summer, saying more than 1,700 staff face compulsory redundancy, including 1,500 disabled employees.

Banner-waving protesters staged a demonstration outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) offices in Westminster.

Sean McGovern, who used to work in a Remploy factory in Brixton, south London, said: "There is a feeling of fear and trepidation among workers, who have been betrayed by the Government."

Mr McGovern claimed that most disabled workers in Remploy factories which have closed in recent years have not found another job.

In Sheffield, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny joined hundreds of marchers who snaked through the city centre waving banners and blowing whistles.

He said: "The decision by the Government will effectively create unemployment for all of these people.

"We know this to be a fact. The last time the Government shut factories, they said that it would be absorbed into mainstream employment - 90% of those people who lost their jobs last time are sitting at home on benefits and have never worked since.

"It's crazy economics, as well as being discriminatory against disabled people."

John Parton, from the doomed Pontefract factory, marched in his wheelchair, saying: "It's just disgusting putting disabled people out of work."

Nova Sheldrake, from the Leeds factory, said: "I think it's disgraceful. Quite a lot of disabled people are going to be on the scrapheap. How are we going to get jobs?"

The closure decision followed a review into the future of Remploy, which concluded that money would be better spent helping disabled people find work in mainstream employment.

A DWP spokesman said: "We have been absolutely clear that the £320 million budget for specialist disability employment services has been protected. But by spending the money more effectively, we can support thousands more disabled people in work.

"That is why we have accepted the recommendation from the Sayce review, to focus support on individuals through services like Access to Work, rather than institutions like Remploy, so more disabled people can work in mainstream employment rather than segregated factories."