Please find below a letter written by Inclusion London, DPAC and allies to publically state our support for the Remploy workers in their opposition to the government’s decision to make them unemployed. If you would like to add your name or the name of your organisation to the letter please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 April 2012
We believe the government’s decision to make 1,518 disabled workers unemployed by August, and a further 1,282 unemployed next year, by closing the Remploy factories is wrong. We do not believe these job losses constitute a victory for inclusion in the workplace.
We have fought long and hard for an inclusive society where disabled people have the same employment chances, choices, and opportunities as everyone else. Our goal and demand for inclusive employment must not be used to justify job cuts that will push these workers into poverty, exclusion, and isolation.
This decision will effectively put these disabled workers on the scrapheap at a time of recession when there is little to no hope of finding alternative employment, when eligibility for benefits is being slashed, and when support services for disabled people are being destroyed. Of the Remploy workers made redundant through the first round of factory closures in 2008 only 6% went on to find alternative employment.
Disabled people face systemic discrimination in the workplace even when the economy is at its strongest. In the current recession in areas where Remploy factories are located there are now on average 30 to 40 people chasing every job. The stark reality is that these disabled workers currently have little chance of finding alternative work, at a time when we are hearing about increasing numbers of disabled people who are taking their own lives in despair after loss of benefits.
The government argues that the factories are inefficient and unsustainable. They fail to mention the top-heavy non-disabled Remploy board and senior management strata; or the £1.8 million handed out in bonuses to Remploy bosses last year which could have been reinvested in the business. Remploy workers have been let down by non-disabled management who have run down their factories to ease the way for the closures.
The government says it is committed to inclusion and equality for disabled people but the facts suggest otherwise. Its disregard for inclusion is evident from its education policy which promotes a return to segregated education. Its welfare policy represents an unprecedented and savage attack on disability equality that will make it more difficult for disabled people to contribute to society.
Disabled people are predicted to lose at the very least £9 billion in benefit entitlements over this Parliament. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own statistics put disability benefit fraud at no more than 0.5%. Proposals for reform of Disability Living Allowance will see 500,000 disabled people losing an essential benefit. 57% of disabled people in waged work on DLA have said in this situation they would be forced to give up work.
Likewise, the Access to Work programme for support for disabled people in mainstream employment has been shown to more than cover its costs in revenue gained by tax, paid by disabled people now in work, who couldn’t remain in their jobs without this support. Yet the reality is that disabled workers’ jobs are being threatened by Access to Work support being cut and restricted.
We reject the view that the way to respond to discrimination and exclusion in the workplace is through segregated employment, but we also reject the view that if we are against segregation we must go along with these job cuts and closures. We say no to any cuts that will push even more disabled people into poverty and isolation.
Equality and inclusion for disabled people will be achieved through commitment and investment in tackling discrimination in the workplace, and wider society, and by investing in the provision of support that enables disabled people to gain choice, control, and independence in our lives.
We the undersigned call for true equality and inclusion through:
- The development of a plan of investment and support to transform the Remploy factories into viable social enterprises controlled by disabled employees rather than their closure.
- Investment to increase and expand the Access to Work scheme so that it genuinely meets the needs of both disabled volunteers and workers. This extra funding must not come from the cuts to Remploy jobs.
- Investment in high-quality employment support services that enable disabled people to find employment and stay in employment—not the free labour workfare schemes currently provided.
- The right to inclusive education and accessible training and apprenticeships for all disabled people that will increase our chances of gaining and retaining meaningful employment.
- Commitment to tackle discrimination in the workplace through better understanding and enforcement of Equality Act duties.