I wish that I had known about the demonstration, as I would have supported it.
There are more than 20 supported businesses in Scotland that employ around 1,600 people in locations throughout the country. Businesses in the Remploy group account for nearly half the supported businesses in Scotland; they employ 285 staff, of which 87 per cent are disabled. They are a highly skilled and adaptable workforce who provide a wide range of goods and services, from high-performance textiles to medical equipment and electronics. Customers include the Ministry of Defence, local authorities and private sector companies.
As the minister stated, the recent announcement means that four of the nine Scottish factories will close and nearly 40 per cent of the workforce will be made redundant. The sites that are earmarked for closure are in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Motherwell and Springburn, adding 111 skilled workers to the unemployment scrap heap.
The Sayce report, which the UK Government commissioned to review disability employment support, states:
“this is precisely the time to develop a strategy to empower disabled people to seize new opportunities when they come on stream and to enable employers to retain and take on disadvantaged people.”
However, when will suitable jobs come on stream? What is the reality for disabled people?
Phil Brannan, convener of the shop stewards at Remploy, said that GMB research had shown that
“In 2008, 29 factories in the UK closed, and 3,000 severely disabled people lost their jobs. Around 18 months later we surveyed those workers and”— as Ken Macintosh said—
“84% had not secured employment”.
According to Momentum Scotland’s website, only 39 per cent of Scotland’s disabled adults are in employment, compared with 81 per cent of able-bodied people. The UK Government has accepted the Sayce report’s recommendations, but where does it think that the replacement jobs for the Remploy workers will come from in the current economic climate, especially as more qualified individuals are applying for posts that they would not have considered before the downturn?
In an email to me, Inclusion Scotland stated:
“Disabled people feel they are usually discriminated against in accessing paid work because of their impairments, and during a time of recession, this is much more prevalent as employers consider the employment of disabled people much more risky, even if it is a fallacy”.
The decision to close four Remploy units in Scotland will change employees from being individuals who feel that they are making a contribution to the community, paying tax and national insurance and not depending on benefits to being people who are left to survive on jobseekers allowance and other handouts.
However, it is not only a Scottish issue. Throughout the UK, the Tory-Liberal Government has accepted that 36 of the 54 Remploy factories will lose their subsidy from 31 March, resulting in 1,752 people being made unemployed.
Throughout the UK, 1.3 million disabled people are available for work and want to work. As Mary Scanlon said, Remploy employment services secured employment for only 20,000 in 2010-11.
A leading adult learning charity in England and Wales stated:
“there is a role for disability specific workplaces where these support the transition to unsupported employment for disabled people who face the greatest labour market disadvantage who, without these workplaces, would be unlikely to be given this transition opportunity elsewhere. Government funding should be available for these disability specific workplaces if necessary to ensure they are viable.”