Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Those issues were broadly discussed and, indeed, that is the final major item that I will cover in the time that remains available to me.

The UK minister and I agreed that we need to work co-operatively to get the very best possible outcomes for Remploy employees in Scotland, whether they move to new jobs or get involved in new businesses that arise on the existing sites, to answer Mark McDonald’s point. When I met the trade union representatives this week, we agreed that every effort should be made to seek viable business alternatives for those sites. The DWP support is all about helping people to move out; we want to look at what is there and consider what new enterprises could be grown from the existing sites and equipment and, most important, the skills of the Remploy workers.

To that end, I have agreed with Scottish Enterprise that, along with key partners, it will engage with those who are involved to analyse and provide support to anyone with an interest in the businesses, whether it be employees, private businesses, or social enterprise. Scottish Enterprise stands ready to consider any realistic proposal that might emerge. To support that work, I also asked the DWP to provide us with any information that could assist employees, third sector businesses and agencies in securing alternative business models or future employment for the Remploy workforce. There might be bids from organisations to take over the sites or equipment. I also asked the DWP to make sure that the Scottish Government is part of any process to assess those bids. It remains to be seen whether the package of support that the DWP is offering will be sufficient to help those who want to find alternative employment.

I intend to monitor the work every step of the way. I want to mobilise whatever Scottish services are necessary through our partnership action for continuing employment team, and I believe that PACE could be the best conduit for the DWP support package. I believe that Remploy will meet PACE representatives soon to discuss the offer of support, and we await a decision from Maria Miller on that. I will meet the chairman of Remploy tomorrow and Angela Constance will meet Remploy next week.

I genuinely hope that we can all work together to get positive outcomes for everyone concerned from this very challenging situation.

I move,

That the Parliament is deeply disappointed by the UK Government’s decision to close four Remploy factories in Scotland with the loss of 111 jobs and to place the future of five further factories, affecting a further 251 people, in doubt; notes that the Scottish Government has requested information from the Department for Work and Pensions that could assist employees, the third sector, business and agencies in securing alternative business models, demonstrating a sustainable future for the remaining factories and ensuring future employment for the Remploy workforce; further notes that, should alternative solutions not be found, support for individuals should be directed through Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) in partnership with JobCentre Plus; welcomes the actions taken by the Scottish Government to increase public sector contracting opportunities with supported businesses, accounting for £24.1 million in 2010-11, and looks forward to the delivery of the framework for the provision of goods through supported businesses, which includes provision of textiles and furniture.