Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

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

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Photo of John Pentland John Pentland Labour

I think that Ken Macintosh has already answered that point.

Nobody would recognise the Remploy factories in their caricature as a Victorian institution. Of course, more recent initiatives aim to support people into mainstream employment and, for those who can take advantage of such schemes, they are welcome developments whose costs make them attractive to Government. However, that does not make Remploy an outmoded model. Unfortunately, many employers are still reluctant to employ people with disabilities and the supported workplace still has a valuable role to play for many workers. Indeed, there is a strong argument for developing more social enterprises staffed and run by disabled workers. To survive, that might be the way that Remploy workplaces must go.

It might not be possible to save all workplaces, but while we fight to keep the existing workplaces open we must consider alternative means of providing and developing supported employment. I know that, in my area, North Lanarkshire Council already provides supported employment for 140 people, and will offer support through the North Lanarkshire’s Working scheme to those whose jobs are now at risk.

The council has already said that it will consider the expansion of its operations. One of those, Beltane Products, is a sheltered workshop, currently providing work for 23 people. Formed nearly 50 years ago, it refurbishes and manufactures a range of furniture and furnishings. The aim would be to expand along the lines of the existing and very successful partnership between Glasgow’s City Building, the RNIB and Blindcraft, which helps to protect 260 jobs. I hope that the Scottish Government can extend support for such action by local authorities and social enterprises through procurement and other initiatives.