Now government cuts target disabled workers

 

Nearly 2,000 disabled workers are to be made redundant after the Government announced it is withdrawing its multi-million-pound subsidy from the state-owned disability employer Remploy.

In a move described by unions as "barbaric", ministers confirmed that up to 36 of Remploy's 54 factories across the UK would shut by the end of the year. When in opposition, both the Employment minister Chris Grayling and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had pledged to keep the factories open.

Workers at one of the Remploy factories to close were said to be in tears on hearing the news.

But in a statement Maria Miller, minister for the Disabled, insisted that the annual £68m government subsidy to Remploy could be better spent on other programmes to help the disabled into work and claimed the move had the support of disabled groups.

She highlighted figures suggesting the annual cost to support each Remploy worker was £25,000 a year, compared to the equivalent £2,900 cost of its Access to Work scheme.

She added that the Government would commit £8m to help find new jobs for those affected by the closures. But Labour and the unions said it was outrageous for the Government to be making 1,700 disabled workers redundant at a time of rising unemployment.

"This is a barbaric decision," said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey. "The Government has sunk to a new low. In the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, these workers' prospects of finding work are almost zero."

Remploy was set up after the Second World War to provide manufacturing jobs in a sheltered environment for people with disabilities.

Workers are employed in enterprises that vary from furniture and packaging manufacturing to recycling electrical appliances and operating CCTV systems.

But the company operates at an annual loss of £68m – despite paying out £1.5m in bonuses to its senior managers last year – a significant number of whom are able-bodied.

Ms Miller said the move followed an independent review by Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, into the way the Government spends its disability employment budget.

Her report concluded the Government's £320m budget could be better spent on the Access to Work fund, which provides technology and other help to firms employing disabled workers.

Government sources also argued that "segregated employment was no longer appropriate in the 21st century".

In an unscheduled Commons statement called after the announcement, Ms Miller defended the "difficult but important" decision to cut funding for Remploy. She told MPs: "The current system is not using the money that we have available most effectively. In these difficult economic times we have to look at that very carefully."

The shadow minister for the Disabled, Anne McGuire, said 1,752 people found out they were losing their job through a written statement "and sometimes by telephone calls from MPs".

She added: "I have the greatest admiration for Liz Sayce and some of the work she did, but frankly to put forward a closure programme putting 1,752 people on the dole, potentially, on the basis of a report by an individual is frankly not acceptable."

Remploy will shortly begin consulting with unions on the proposed closure of the 36 factories and on the potential compulsory redundancy of 1,752 people at the sites, most of them disabled workers.

Among the factories threatened with closure are those in Leicester, Manchester, Aberdeen, Newcastle and London. The other 18 Remploy factories, described as "potentially viable" and employing 910 people, including 706 with disabilities, will continue to share a reduced subsidy while they are being assessed for a future "outside government control".

Phil Davies, of the GMB union, said: "These factories have lacked support for years and have never been properly loaded with enough work to make them economically viable."

Remploy: A history

1945

Remploy is established under the Disabled Persons Employment Act. Its first factory in Bridgend, South Wales, makes furniture and violins. Employees are largely ex-servicemen injured in the Second World War and former miners.

1988

Remploy begins finding jobs for disabled people outside its factories.

2002

Business grows for the first time in a decade, with profit margins up by 5 per cent to £53.7m on sales of £136m. However, its losses also increase.

2008

After a long battle between the Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain and trade unions, 29 factories close. There are no compulsory redundancies, but around 2,000 out of a total workforce of 5,000 lose their jobs.

January 2011

A voluntary redundancy plan is leaked to newspapers before trade unions are informed. GMB union claims that of the 2,000 people who lost their jobs, 90 per cent are still on benefits.

February 2011

Reports say chief executive Tim Matthews is paid £180,000 a year.

July 2011

Government says it is "minded to accept" the closure of the remaining factories as three-month consultation begins.

Liam O'Brien

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...