In November 2007, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Peter Hain, approved a five-year modernisation programme, which resulted in the closure of 29 sites, including one in Hillington in Scotland. In 2010—three years into that five-year process—the current UK Government commissioned Liz Sayce of Disability Rights UK to undertake a review of specialist disability employment support by the Department for Work and Pensions. That review resulted in the DWP’s decision to move Remploy out of Government ownership and close four of the nine remaining factories in Scotland, with the loss of 111 jobs and putting a further 251 jobs at risk.
The Scottish Government is deeply disappointed by that decision and the manner in which it was made. We are seeing a steady erosion of supported employment support by the UK Government. In today’s challenging labour market, finding a job in any circumstances can be challenging; that is doubly so for disabled people.
It is true that most disabled people in Scotland do not work in a supported business, but it is also true that, for some, working in a supported environment may be their only chance of accessing employment. We know that supported employment can be very effective in helping disabled people into work, so we remain firmly committed to the implementation of the supported employment framework in Scotland, which we published in February 2010.
Although we recognise that many people in supported employment in Scotland do not work in supported businesses, we simply cannot underestimate the impact that supported businesses across Scotland have on those who work in them and their families. Information that Scotland’s supported businesses provided last year suggested that more than 1,600 disabled people are employed by supported businesses in Scotland, including in Erskine, Remploy, Forth Sector and Haven Products. However, there is no doubt that some of those businesses are struggling, and I want to ensure that we are taking steps to support those businesses where we can.
I attended an event in February.