The standard response of the disability movement (whatever that is these days) has been to say no to segregated employment – they’ve said that since the 70s. The government mantra which insists that ‘work is good for you’ now seems to sit in an even more unbelievable place than it did a week ago after the closing 36 of the 54 Remploy factories. What’s more a set of formal disability organisations seem to think it was a good idea for up to 2,000 disabled people to join the current regime of trying to claim benefits in one of the worst ever social and economic periods to become unemployed. So now they’re doing the government’s dirty work for them. Is unemployment preferable to segregation?
This is not the 70s- its 2012. Those not in work are being pursued by a regime of Atos testing repeated assessments and loss of income, or being put on JSA and workfare placements, all are labelled scroungers and frauds. Organisations take up more and more church halls every day to provide food parcels, people are being left without any income, suicide rates amongst disabled people are increasing, unemployment is at an all time high, many disabled people have lost jobs and rates of unemployment for disabled people, like those of every other group, are increasing. The difference for disabled people is that when the employment market is good we have half of the rate of non-disabled people in employment. It is more difficult for disabled people to find employment and very little has been done to change that. So how can any disability organisation ‘back’ more disabled people being thrown into this situation-who are disability organisations working for?
It’s down to the Sayce report and review. In a nutshell this said that Remploy factories cost too much for the government to run and if the government closed the factories, then it could put more money into Access to Work and support more disabled people-many were sold on this but isn’t it all a bit too simple?
Access to Work have been restricting and changing criteria since 2010, making employers pay more for changes, reducing the list of items that could be claimed from AtW and have hounded those on AtW in an effort to get them off it. Will we see charges for employers reduced? The list of items that can be claimed for under AtW increased? Or a lessening of the hounding of those with learning difficulties and others by AtW?
We don’t think so either – neither will we see the itemised cost of this ‘independent’ Sayce review rumoured to be 2 million pounds. In its response to the ‘independent’ Sayce review in September 2011 DPAC said:
DPAC proposes that the costs of the reports, individual payments, meetings and committees attached to the Sayce report are made transparent, the current rumour is a cost of 2 million pounds– DPAC suggests that this figure may have been of more use if half was put into Remploy factories with the remainder making up for the increasing cuts being administered to AtW which is curtailing disabled peoples’ opportunities to work.
DPAC also said:
The ‘independent’ Sayce consultation is a remarkable volt face from the government and a shameful collusion by a disability charity in an agenda that will do very little, if anything to aid disabled peoples’ employment, conversely it appears to seek backing to make more disabled people unemployed through the closure of Remploy factories
Of course as we have seen with other consultations and reviews the formula of ‘they ask and do it anyway’ applies. The decision had already been made. The Sayce report also claimed that 100% of disability organisations said Remploy should close, DPAC said:
It is ironic that the ‘independent’ Sayce report seeks to remove the specialist or segregated employment in Remploy factories (backed by the rather dubious claim that 100% of disability organisations said Remploy factories should close), while at the same time the coalition government seeks to substantially increase levels of segregated schooling.
In the recent press releases from Miller and RADAR we have seen nothing of one part of the review : a question that asked: Do you agree that Remploy’s Employment Services should be sold and transformed into a mutual, social enterprise or other model? DPAC said:
Remploy workers and their unions should be consulted on this; they should have been consulted from the first…Remploy factories should continue to be subsidized, it is the management and board structure that should be removed with control going to disabled people as workers and their unions.
So why aren’t the formal disabled peoples’ organisations all calling for this and backing disabled people at Remploy?
Only one person from a formal disability organisation mentioned this:
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, said the idea of sheltered, segregated workplaces belonged in the last century, but disabled Remploy workers should be supported to take control of factories themselves, setting up user-led social enterprises.
If the formal disability organisations cannot start to wake up to the reality of life under this government for most disabled people then they should at least pay some attention to the criticism of Les Woodward who said:
I cannot see how making the best part of 2,000 people redundant is going to advance the disability agenda one iota.
He called on them to visit and talk with Remploy workers. We call on them, and especially Liz Sayce to do so too. We also call on them to challenge the government on the proposal of Remploy workers developing their own social enterprises run and controlled by disabled people, because the words and actions they’ve issued so far do not suggest that they are on the side of disabled people anymore
The e-petition to save Remploy factories is at: http://www.saveremployfactories.co.uk/