Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

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

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

We often begin speeches in the Parliament by saying that it is a pleasure to take part in a debate. I am afraid that this is one of those rare occasions when it really is not a pleasure to take part in a debate. Having said that, I am proud to have the opportunity to stand up for my constituents and their colleagues across the country who are threatened with redundancy. It is an honour to represent people who, in spite of the adversity that they have encountered in their lives, have the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing a meaningful job and contributing to their society and communities. Therefore, I sincerely thank the Scottish Government for bringing the debate to the chamber.

Why would anyone want to take jobs away from disabled people? When 20 people are chasing every job vacancy in my constituency, why does the coalition Government think it acceptable to put another 46 people on the dole? What makes the coalition Government think that those 46 people will have a better chance of getting alternative employment than their peers in a country in which some 75 per cent of able-bodied people have jobs but in which, as Gordon MacDonald said, only 45 per cent of disabled people are in work?

We know that disabled people want to have a choice about where they work and that, for many, that will be in mainstream or open employment. However, for a substantial number of those who work at Remploy that choice simply does not exist. Some have tried to fit into other workplaces and have encountered problems; others simply could not get work that would suit them or their disability. If the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, thinks that it will be easy for those workers to find alternative employment, why does she not allow them to remain with Remploy until they do?

Ten of those who work at Remploy in Springburn are deaf, but they were not even given the courtesy of a signer when the news was broken to the workforce that their factory was to close—so much for the respect agenda. There was, however, a human resources consultant in attendance, whom we understand is being paid £300 an hour to assist the management through the closure programme.

We know that the Remploy model is a particular one with a particular history, but I do not recognise the picture that the Conservative amendment paints in talking about a segregated workforce. Nor do I see any sense in the suggestion by the minister at Westminster that by putting 1,500 people on the dole she will be helping others into work. That is perverse logic in my view.

The irony is that the Remploy factory in my constituency is in the same industrial estate as Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries, which colleagues have mentioned. That is a supported workplace that is run like a social enterprise and it has a strong future ahead of it. Its employees are supported and encouraged to learn.