News of Remploy’s reform spread quickly as it trended on Twitter with the government announcing that 36 out of 54 Remploy factories are to close by the end of the year. 1,518 disabled people are facing compulsory redundancy. Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, has announced further consultations with Remploy bosses over the future of the 18 remaining factories, to examine whether they can survive as social enterprises run by employees.
Much has changed since the first Remploy factory was opened at Bridgend in South Wales in 1946 by Ernest Bevin, the Minister for Labour. Segregated workshops are by today’s standards seen by many as simply wrong and in fact reforming Remploy has been a hot potato for many years.
I am reminded of the times when I have successfully supported people transferring from sheltered workshops to open employment and hope that this can be replicated in these testing times. Many disabled people have only ever known a sheltered work place.
The government budget so far to do this is £8m, which will provide “tailored support” for staff who lose their jobs.
I know time will be key – many disabled people will need to get to grips with the changes and won’t be able to do so overnight. Top of the shopping list should be some time for people to explore what jobs they enjoy, learn more about new work and find out about reasonable adjustments to the workplace. There are a vast range of adjustments that many disabled people and employers can explore. Emergency escape, building alterations, auxiliary aids such as temporary ramps and hearing enhancement are perhaps more familiar to employers than ‘managed’ adjustments such as flexible working.
With 1000+ new jobs having just been announced at Nissan in Sunderland and 20,000 at Tesco across the UK, I hope they are thinking seriously about recruiting from the Remploy pool and using all available support and grants for making ‘reasonable adjustments’.
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