Unanimous support was offered to Remploy workers resisting the closure of their factories by the Right to Work AGM on 11th March 2012. The pledge followed the announcement by government last week of the implementation of the findings from the Sayce Report, the review of disability employment support published last year. The report was commissioned from the disability charity Radar for allegedly as much as two million pounds.
In her speech to the AGM, Linda Burnip, DPAC, emphasised the devastating impact of current government policies on disabled people. DPAC is not satisfied that enough will be done to protect the futures of more than 1500 disabled workers who will be left without employment. Of those Remploy employees made redundant from previous closures only 6% have gone on to find further employment. At a time of recession it is irresponsible to push large numbers of disabled people onto the mercy of the ever restricted welfare system. Moreover as local authorities tighten their eligibility criteria and cut back on front line services disabled people are being increasingly left socially isolated and alone. Remploy workers facing the closure of their factories face the loss not only of their options for paid work but also of vital social networks. DPAC does not support segregated employment but we believe that starting to end this practice by throwing people who’ve worked in sheltered workplaces for 20-30 years is wrong. The place to start an end to segregation is in the education system and disabled children must have a legal right to mainstream education.
The Right to Work campaign have called on anti-cuts groups to show solidarity with and support local actions called by Remploy workers to resist the government’s decision. Mark Dunk of the Right to Work campaign said, “The Tory government’s plans to close Remploy will throw thousands of disabled people onto the growing unemployment scrapheap. Those who had some independence and security as Remploy workers now face having their lives dictated to them by multinational corporations operating government workfare schemes. The Right to Work campaign will do all it can to support Remploy workers fighting back against this disgraceful attack.”
Remploy closures have been justified by claims that money saved in this way could be reinvested in Access to Work, the government scheme which provides support to disabled people in mainstream employment. This was the recommendation of the Sayce Report. However, whilst implementing the finding to close Remploy factories, adversely affecting thousands of disabled people, there is little hope that the government will be so diligent in implementing the finding to invest in Access to Work. A statement by the Office for Disability Issues last week said that the Government aims to focus money on disabled people themselves rather than institutions “by recycling monies freed up from Remploy over time into more effective and proven employment programmes such as Access to Work“. The language is clearly worded not to create any expectation of investment any time soon.
Disabled people are therefore going to lose and lose again as thousands more are set to join the ranks of those currently living in fear, dependent on a benefits system that is disappearing before our very eyes. Yet again the government has shown how ruthlessly it is willing to exploit the social model and the language of inclusion to ease through its vicious and unrelenting attacks on disabled people. Whilst preaching integration, the government is snatching away yet more and more of the support that disabled people need not only to participate equally within society but to live at all. This is being done with the complicity of the big charities, profiting from the government’s calculated lip service to inclusion while the lives of disabled people are cast aside.