Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

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

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Photo of Gordon MacDonald Gordon MacDonald Scottish National Party

I would prefer to get on a wee bit.

According to press reports, the UK Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, has stated:

“it costs the taxpayer £25,000 to keep one Remploy factory worker in their job each year, and yet the factory bosses are paying many of their employees to do nothing, because of a lack of orders.”

However, when I visited my local Remploy along with Colin Keir and Chic Brodie we were informed that Remploy had no marketing budget, that individual factories were not allowed to advertise, that they had nearly two dozen sales positions vacant and that there were no Scotland-based sales people. No wonder there is a lack of orders.

A recent KPMG report identified the operating loss for each Remploy site. All four Scottish factories identified for closure are making a loss. However, Springburn reported an operating loss of just over £4,000 per employee before a share of central costs was added on. We should compare that with the value of the benefits that the employees will receive when they are made redundant.

Some organisations have indicated that sheltered factories are an outdated concept left over from the aftermath of the second world war and that disabled people should be in mainstream employment. However, many Remploy employees have worked 20-plus years for the organisation. Some of them previously tried open employment but found it too stressful, leading to a deterioration in their general health. Others felt that the culture at Remploy was one that understood disability and fluctuating health conditions. That may not be the case at other employers. Inclusion Scotland stated:

“We strongly feel that closing this many factories, all at once, is an unmitigated disaster for these workers and is ill-timed and wrong”.

As we were informed at our visit, the 90-day consultation period for redundancies has begun and people will begin to lose their jobs on 4 July, with complete closure expected by 17 August. Time is running out for the workers. There is likely to be little alternative employment for those who are being made redundant. The only option is that we examine all avenues to keep the factories open.