Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, claimed that former Remploy workers were now finding work at a rate of three every working day, with the help of an £8 million package of government support.
But the GMB union has accused the government of “manipulating the figures”, and dismissed coalition efforts to find work for former Remploy workers as a “complete shambles”.
They say that most of the jobs found so far are part-time, temporary or even unpaid positions.
Five years ago, there were 83 Remploy sheltered factories spread across the UK. The Labour government closed 29 factories in 2008, while the coalition announced in March 2012 that it was closing a further 36, although it said that some of the remaining 18 could be saved.
More than 1,400 disabled people have lost their jobs as a result of the closures under the coalition.
Of the 1,093 former Remploy workers who chose to receive one-to-one support from government-funded advisers – including access to a personal budget of about £2,500 per person – 308 are currently in paid work of at least 16 hours a week, with about another 300 in training.
Of the other 800 disabled ex-Remploy workers, about 600 are claiming jobseeker’s allowance, with about 200 claiming employment and support allowance.
Jerry Nelson, GMB’s national secretary for manufacturing, said the number of ex-Remploy workers in permanent, full-time, paid jobs was far lower than the government figure, and accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a “massive over-statement” of the true position.
GMB carried out a survey of former Remploy workers in January and received about 450 responses.
Of the 50 or so who said they had found some kind of work since leaving Remploy, many were in part-time employment.
Nelson said: “Some said they had received some kind of support. Most said they didn’t have any support. A lot of them have been doing their own thing.”
He said that about 100 disabled workers had found jobs with new social enterprises that have taken over former Remploy factories.
And he dismissed government claims that former Remploy workers who had taken up the government’s offer were being offered intensive, personalised support.
He said the “training” they were receiving was “basic” help with filling in CVs and literacy, and added: “In our survey, the vast majority are coming back saying they have had no support.”
He said: “It is disgraceful. It is straightforward manipulation of figures on their part. They are placing them wherever they can and obviously very few of them are on full-time contracts.”
Several hundred of those who opted for the government’s support programme were referred to Remploy’s own employment services division, but Remploy has so far declined to comment on the union’s claims.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We’d urge the GMB to work with us to provide the best possible support for Remploy workers, rather than criticising the considerable success of those who have moved into mainstream jobs.
“Around 308 ex-Remploy workers are now in paid work of more than 16 hours a week. We are also helping into new careers those who, because of their personal circumstances or disability, wish to work fewer than 16 hours a week, but those jobs won’t be recorded in our statistics.”
She added: “We’d encourage any ex-Remploy worker who is still considering their future but hasn’t taken up our offer of support to do so, so they can get access to the one-to-one personalised support and a personal budget to help get into mainstream employment.”
11 April 2013