A disabled MP has backed the government’s decision to withdraw funding from the remaining sheltered factories run by Remploy.
The government announced last week that 36 of the 54 Remploy factories across the UK would close by the end of 2012, with the loss of more than 1, 500 disabled people’s jobs, while there would be further consultation over the future of the other 18 factories.
Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne, told Disability News Service this week that he supported the coalition’s decision.
The former disability consultant said those disabled people who were losing their jobs would understandably be “very angry and upset by what’s happened”, but he added: “The old-fashioned, paternalistic, institutionalised approach of Remploy has no place in the modern world.”
He said his support for the decision depended on the government meeting its pledge that “every penny saved will go into helping more disabled people into [mainstream] jobs”, with “significant levels of support” to help former Remploy workers into mainstream work, and “generous” packages for those for whom this was not possible.
He said it was “not realistic” to expect all former Remploy workers to find mainstream work, but he was “very, very hopeful” that more would be found work than happened with those who lost their jobs after the closure of Remploy factories by the last Labour government.
He said: “Having been involved in disability equality for over 20 years I have always been passionate about ensuring more disabled people are in mainstream employment.
“Disability equality, respect and opportunity for disabled people is one of the things that brought me back into politics.
“In their heart of hearts, people who actually understand this subject know that this decision by the government is correct.”
But he added: “If I get a sniff that this is part of a Treasury-driven initiative and the money [from the Remploy closures] goes back to the Treasury, I will publicly fight it tooth and nail.”
Tracey Proudlock, a leading disabled access and disability consultant, said she believed that about a third of Remploy’s employees would find sustainable, worthwhile jobs through Work Choice, the government’s scheme for supporting disabled people into employment.
Proudlock said she expected the other two-thirds would either resist the idea of a new career in mainstream employment, possibly because they were close to retirement, or would find it impossible to find jobs.
Her experience of supporting disabled people into mainstream employment from a sheltered workshop run by a London local authority in the early 1990s has convinced her that many ex-Remploy workers will be successful in finding work, if given the right support.
She said: “I think these people leaving Remploy will probably need high levels of support for an appreciable period of time. It is not a temporary thing.
“Finding them mainstream work will be complex, but very, very worthwhile, because some of them will come away with meaningful, inclusive work.”
15 March 2012