Jul 182012
 

The dangers of throwing several thousand people from paid work into unemployment should be obvious to anyone. The fact that a majority, although not all, of the Remploy workers are disabled people should signal a further problem: disabled people who want to work, are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people in all official statistics since records began. For example in 2011 the employment rate was 48.8% for disabled people compared to 77.5% for non-disabled people .

It is dangerous, misguided and completely ludicrous to claim that all disability organisations and the disability movement have decided that a new perverse way of supporting disabled people is to make them unemployed and subject to the ravages that disabled people must endure under this government, as the Sayce report suggests. For those of us that have spent years arguing for an equality agenda for disabled people the arguments put forward in the Sayce report are dangerous, misguided and wrong.

 

1. Remploy factories due for closure are “unviable” and too costly to run.

Remploy is no more unviable than the Royal Bank of Scotland, yet the Government found billions to bail out bankers. Remploy was set up before the end of the Second World War to provide employment and employment placement services for disabled people.

Labour MP Geraint Davies exposed the mismanagement of Remploy in Parliament recently when speaking as part of the Opposition Day Debate on disability welfare and support on 20th June :

 “When I started becoming actively involved with my local Remploy factory about a year ago, the orders it was receiving were not high enough. I went round to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the local health service, the local university, and so on, and now the factory is working flat out, getting more and more orders. That just shows that if the central command in Remploy were more effective, the factories could be successful and could work.”

 If the factories are not financially sustainable, then why have there been 65 bids to save 31 Remploy sites (all but 9 were rejected)?

2.  Remploy workers don’t do “proper” jobs.

 This is a myth peddled by the Work and Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith, who said that Remploy workers were “not doing any work… just making cups of coffee”.

 This sneering insult is far from the truth.

 Workers at Remploy are involved in a range of jobs from producing medical equipment to CCTV operators, and from assembly for car companies  to book-binding.

 

3. Each Remploy place costs some £25,000 per year.

This was the figure used in the Sayce report which recommended the closure of the factories.

The report does not explain that that this figure was calculated on the basis of how much it costs to run the entire factory network including layers of unnecessary of overpaid management, their bonuses and company cars, and under-performing central posts filled largely by non-disabled workers at a time when managers were running the factories into the ground and not using resources to capacity.

Mark Holloway a worker at the Barking factory in east London said, “They say it costs £25,000 per disabled person to keep the jobs, but over 400 senior managers are on salaries of £40,000 to £60,000”. 

For 2010-2011, as recently 4 months before the beginning of this closures process, Remploy management received 1.8 million in bonuses at a time when the factory floor was on a pay restraint.

The cost of running the factory network was calculated without taking into account income earned from provision of training placements, which although delivered through the factory network was used to generate income instead into Remploy Employment Services.

Trade Unions representing the workers estimate that when the profit from sales is considered and taken into account the cost per disabled worker to the State could be as low as £7,000. When you also take into account the fact that tax and insurance is being paid in and benefits are not being paid out this figure could be substantially lower.

The cost of per worker needs to be compared against the £18,880 per year cost to the tax payer for those on long term benefits. There is also a hidden cost to the NHS. It is commonly accepted that once a disabled person stops work their health deteriorates and more medical intervention is needed. Add this to the increase costs of the £18,880 and the actual final cost could be £30,000 to £40,000 per year in increased costs. If we add in the cost of the 2008 redundancy of £40+ million, plus the impact on family members having to give up or reduce work in order to support disabled relatives now at home during the day and you can soon see it will take years, if ever to recover the costs.

 

4. Money spent on Remploy factory placements could support thousands more disabled people through Access to Work.

Access to Work can only support disabled people once they are in jobs, it doesn’t help people find jobs.

Access to Work has a lower success rate than the Remploy factories with supporting disabled people from impairment groups that are under-represented in the workplace. In 2010-2011 people with mental health support needs made up just 1.4% of disabled customers helped by Access to Work compared to 5% of Remploy employees. When you look at learning difficulties, Access to Work provided support to just 5% compared to 17.2% working in Remploy.

Access to Work provides support to different groups of disabled people than are employed by Remploy.

Increasing its budget alone will not enable Access to Work to more successfully reach these under-represented groups: government policy is to reduce resources invested in individual disabled people through Access to Work support. Instead of stretching the budget to cover more disabled people this effectively stops the programme from being any use to many disabled people. Jobcentre Plus disability equality advisors have told us they have stopped referring disabled job-seekers to Access to Work because the growing restrictions on what the programme will cover make it pointless.

 

5. It’s segregated employment.

This is one simplistic argument popularised by the Sayce report, however the Remploy factories do not employ disabled people exclusively. In 2008, 29 factory sites geographically based from Scotland to Cornwall closed with over 2,500 Remploy employees becoming unemployed. Of these, 1,700 employees were disabled. The 2012 closures will affect around 80% of employees who are disabled.

 

6. The closure of factories will lead to greater inclusion for disabled people.

The inclusion of disabled people in society is at greater risk under this Condem government than it has been for decades. Inclusive education is fundamental for achieving inclusive communities, yet Condem education policy (name it/link it) is to bring back segregated education through what they call ‘removing the bias of inclusion’ and the promotion of Academies  which notoriously  discriminate against disabled pupils. For disabled adults the closure of the independent living fund signals a return to institutional care as local authorities such as Worcester seek to cap social care support forcing disabled people with higher levels of support need to go into care and denying them the right to live in the community.

Against attacks on disabled people’s right to inclusion on this magnitude pushing a few thousand workers into joblessness will achieve nothing.

On the other hand through employment Remploy workers have access to life chances that would be denied to them through joblessness. Remploy employee Tony Collins, a middle distance runner with the Great Britain Learning Disabled Athletics Squad who uses his salary to travel the world attending international athletics events,  will not only lose his job when the factory where he works closes but his whole life will change for the worse.

 

7. The workers will be supported when the factories close.

During 2007 and the early part of 2008 the company gave promises of support for those leaving in the round of closures(being) carried out under the Labour government, but history has shown that very few of the 1,700 disabled people received even a phone call from Remploy let alone any practical support of any kind.

Remploy workers will be given access to a person budget but a recent Community Care survey showed 48% of social workers do not believe personal budgets are of high enough monetary value to achieve personalisation, while a survey by the Learning Disability Coalition into the impact of cutbacks on frontline services revealed that 47% of people with learning difficulties spend most of their time at home.

In 2012 there is a community pot of 1.5 million offered to charities and disabled peoples’ organisations to support the workers into jobs by the DWP. This may explain the keenness of the illogical ‘equality into unemployment arguments’ that some were producing but it is unlikely that Disabled People’s Organisations and the usual list of disability charities or voluntary organisations can find jobs for ex-Remploy workers where they do not exist.

 

8. The workers will be able find mainstream employment

A survey by GMB of disabled workers made redundant in 2008 revealed 74% left on State benefits and of the 26% who had found alternative work only 5% of those had found work on equal or better terms.

From the round of Remploy closures before that in the 1980s, 85% of disabled ex-employees remain unemployed . This was in a better economic climate than that of today. Some committed suicide, many threatened suicide and many experienced mental health issues, for those that already had mental health issues these were exacerbated.

Jul 162012
 

The dangers of throwing several thousand people from paid work into unemployment should be obvious to anyone. The fact that a majority, although not all, of the Remploy workers are disabled people should signal a further problem: Disabled people who want to work, are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people in all official statistics since records began. For example in 2011 the employment rate was 48.8% for disabled people compared to 77.5% for non-disabled people[1].

It is dangerous, misguided and completely ludicrous to claim that all disability organisations and the disability movement have decided that a new perverse way of supporting disabled people is to make them unemployed and subject to the ravages that disabled people must endure under this government, as the Sayce report suggests. See for example http://www.dpac.uk.net/tag/guardian-newspaper/

For those of us that have spent years arguing for an equality agenda for disabled people the arguments put forward in the Sayce report are: dangerous, misguided and wrong.

Dangerous Partners

The Sayce report (‘Getting in, Staying in and Getting on’) and the Tory desire to seemingly make the poorest most excluded people further excluded and even poorer are a strange partnership, throw in Miller, Unum and ATOS and we have a list of known enemies of disabled people-some might wonder what Sayce is doing in such unpleasant company.

The Sayce/ Tory partnership produced a report rumoured to have cost over 2 million pounds to:

1. Explain how to save money

2 Improve disabled Remploy workers lives’ by closing their factories and seemingly removing their jobs.

3. Ensure that if factories are sold off to buyers at knock down prices, buyers have no enforcement in place to re-employ disabled workers

The basis of these ‘improvements’ are predicated on the notion that disabled people need to be included in society- who would disagree? However, inclusion for disabled people and many non-disabled people in society now often means being included in the growing army of the unemployed –for those disability organisations that sign up to this notion, unemployment prevents segregation- well that’s true, but maybe they should re-examine that particular version of inclusion vs segregation. Maybe we need examine the other partners in this game? Is it a surprise that Unum were involved in the Sayce report for example? See here for an explanation of why Unum have satisfied the status of an enemy of disabled people and co-conspirators in welfare reform or the cuts agenda. One organisation that needs no introduction is ATOS. ATOS own the company KPMG. KPMG were contracted by the Department of Works and Pensions too (cost currently unknown) – they produced a report of their own in March 2012. The report was titled: Analysis of Remploy Enterprise business and Employment Services’ A copy of the report summary can be found here

However, the validity of this report may be in doubt to the general reader as page two is filled with a list of disclaimers. These include:

●Nothing in this report constitutes a valuation or legal advice.

●We have not verified the reliability or accuracy of any information obtained in the course of our work.

●In preparing our report, our primary source has been Remploy’s internal management information and representations made to us by Remploy Senior Management during the project. We do not accept responsibility for such information which remains the responsibility of Management. Details of our principal information sources are set out on page 4 and we have satisfied ourselves, so far as possible, that the information presented in our report is consistent with other information which was made available to us in the course of our work in accordance with the terms of our Service Order. We have not, however, sought to establish the reliability of the sources by reference to other evidence.

Maybe Les Woodward’s analysis, which the DWP didn’t pay millions for, might be more credible

Closing Remploy factories will not save disabled workers from ‘Victorian-era segregation’. It will wreck lives[2]

An interesting postscript is that one of the directors of Remploy is also a director of RADAR: ‘all in it together’? Labour, (who incidentally closed a number of factories in 2008 so let’s not get too teary eyed), have urged the Government to start the whole consultation again, some claiming that it is a shambles. While Phil Davies, secretary of the GMB accused the Government of turning the consultation into a

good old-fashioned Klondyke gold rush”[3].

But there’s more, as argument after argument presented in the Sayce report is knocked down and proved to have a false or questionable basis.

 Misguided Arguments

The ‘Independent’ Sayce Report of June 2011 and the consultation that followed apparently showed that a group of  individuals, organisations, charities (and the insurance company Unum) felt that segregated workplaces were outdated and as a result disabled workers should be made redundant (see appendix for those involved in consultation).

 

 However, the process of redundancies was underway as early as January 2011 six months before the estimated 2 million pound plus Sayce report began. On 14 January 2011 Remploy HR Director, Sue Butcher phoned the GMB National Secretary and informed him that an announcement was to be made on 18 January 2011. No other information was given.

On 18 January 2011 the company met with the trade unions and informed them that they were opening up a voluntary redundancy programme and that consultation would start on 24 January 2011. The company had already informed the employees by letter that it was opening up a Voluntary Redundancy scheme. No consultation had taken place with the trade unions. Seems they were not important enough to be invited[4].

The Sayce report found people working at Remploy factories who were quoted as saying they wanted ‘real’ jobs and the report ‘team’ claimed to have consulted in-depth with workers

 

The GMB union cannot seem to find these quotees in the factories who wanted ‘real’ jobs, for some reason. It has, however found 4 people who took part in what was presented as an in-depth consultation with Remploy employees[5].

The closure of the Remploy factories is because they are segregated workplaces isn’t it?

 This is one simplistic argument popularised by the Sayce report, however the Remploy factories do not employ disabled people exclusively. In 2008, 29 factory sites geographically based from Scotland to Cornwall closed with over 2,500 Remploy employees becoming unemployed. Of these, 1,700 employees were disabled. The 2012 closures will affect around 80% of employees who are disabled.

Given the other players in the partnership –it all points to a ‘cuts agenda’ rather than any supposed moral high ground on inclusion.

The workers will find alternative jobs in the open workforce?

 

In 2008, 29 factory sites geographically based from Scotland to Cornwall closed with over 2,500 Remploy employees becoming unemployed. Nearly 1,700 of these employees were disabled and most of them have not worked since and remain on benefits.

From the last round of Remploy closures  85% of disabled ex-employees remain unemployed[6]. This was in a better economic climate than that of today. Some committed suicide, many threatened suicide and many experienced mental health issues, for those that already had mental health issues these were exacerbated.

The workers will be supported when the factories close

 

 During 2007 and the early part of 2008 the company gave promises of support for those leaving in the round of closures carried out under the Labour government but history has shown that very few of the 1,700 disabled people received even a phone call from Remploy let alone any practical support[7].

In 2012 there is a community pot of 1.5 million offered to charities and disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) to support the workers into jobs by the DWP. This may explain the keenness of the illogical ‘equality into unemployment arguments’ that some were producing but it is unlikely that DPOs and the usual list of disability charities or voluntary organisations can find jobs for ex-Remploy workers where they do not exist, despite taking their 30 pieces of silver. However, some are running the much maligned mandatory work programs-so maybe that will the grand plan, sanctions and all.

The full criteria for this fund has been laid out in a Freedom of Information Request on the purpose of the Community Support Fund (CSF)  [8]

The CSF will offer financial and non financial support to local disabled people’s user led organisations (DPULOs) and voluntary sector organisations to deliver support and services designed to meet the specific needs of
disabled Remploy employees affected by the announcements on the future of Remploy factories.

The intention is that the fund will help to support affected Remploy staff to re-engage with their local communities and help their transition from segregated sheltered employment to mainstream employment. It will be focussed around the geographical areas where affected Remploy employees live and used to build the capacity of local DPULOs, 3rd sector and voluntary organisations and to develop a range of activities and projects to help the move from sheltered to main stream employment.

As well as a modest amount of money being available to support projects to help ex-Remploy employees, and other local disabled people, get into work, training or volunteering funding will be made available to help create learning and development activities to improve employment
opportunities.

 Not really that impressive. But impressive enough for emails asking organisations to ‘put their applications in’ to go out to selected disability organisations and charities 24 hours after the closures were formally announced. These emails say nothing about jobs but give examples of film clubs and other types of support , none of which offer a paid job which is what the factories offered. One option is to offer support in ‘choice and control’ where was the choice and control for those workers that wanted to stay in their paid jobs in the Remploy factories?

The Remploy workers will be better supported by Access to Work Schemes- money will be better spent on Access to Work

 

First, to qualify for Access to Work you need to have a job or a documented firm offer of one: first hurdle. The problems with Access to Work, including cost cutting under this government are too numerous to go into here, but even the hallowed Access to Work cannot match the percentage of support that was already being provided at the Remploy factories. This is particularly the case with learning difficulties and mental health issues.

Another point made in the Sayce report is that access to work may be able to benefit disabled people with a mental health conditions.  Out of the 32,680 helped in the current year only 460 have a mental health conditions.  This is only 1.4% of all those helped.  Compare this to 131 employees in Remploy who have a mental health conditions out of 2,692 employees which is 5% or 4 times higher.

When you look at another major disability which is learning disability, out of the 32,680 helped by access to work only 1,680 with this particular disability have been helped into employment.  This is just over 5% compared to the 462 disabled people out of 2,692 who have a learning condition working in Remploy (17.2%) again over 3 times as high[9].

Never the less, its all been a useful exercise to set up an expert panel on Access to Work run by the CEO of Essex Coalition of Disabled People and to extend access to Work to young disabled people enduring workfare type schemes[10]

The workers in the factories cost too much

 

GMB argues that voluntary redundancies increased the cost of each worker by £1,000 per worker. Management has remained top heavy, apparently ineffectual and overpaid- and the continued use of consultants such as KMPG have added to costs. These costs were lumped together along with running costs to produce a misleading amount per worker[11].

Further: There are 3238 employees most of whom are disabled and who earn less than £16,000 per year. The cost of travel for all employees has escalated to £2m, the cost of company cars to £2.4m and the cost of car allowances to £1.1m; a total cost of £5.5m.

The figure of £138m losses for the factory network is not true. We believe that if all the measures outlined in the trade unions document are taken on board and implemented then the cost of the factory network would be approx £35m per year.

Put another way when the profit from sales is considered and taken into account the cost per disabled worker to the State could be as low as £7,000.

When you also take into account the fact that tax and insurance is being paid in and benefits are not being paid out this figure could be substantially lower[12]. Alternatively: the cost of unemployment which for a disabled person could be as much as £25,000 to £30,000 per year for each disabled person not working when you take into consideration the revenue lost in tax and national insurance contributions the cost could be higher. A disabled person who is not working will probably receive higher benefits than a non disabled person. Housing benefits and careers allowances are only the tip of the iceberg.

The unseen and unmonitored costs start to mount up when you consider that a large number of disabled people who were made redundant when Remploy closed 29 factory sites now have severe health problems and the use of the NHS has greatly increased. We would estimate that this cost could be as high as £20,000 for some disabled people.

Figures in the Sayce report show that factories never profit

 

 In May 2012 Profits were up -Sally Kosky said: “According to the management’s own figures, the cost to government is down by £16.5 million on the previous year – £2.5 million better than budget”[13].

Also from May: A letter sent to Remploy employees shows the business is doing well, Plaid Cymru has claimed. The letter congratulates workers on a 12.2 per cent growth in sales and a 17 per cent reduction in costs. The Remploy factory in Swansea is one of seven sites in Wales which has been earmarked for closure.

Plaid Cymru’s equalities spokeswoman, Lindsay Whittle AM, said: “These figures prove that the UK Government’s intention to close Remploy factories is a thinly veiled attack on the welfare state. It shows that there is absolutely no justification for the government’s plans, except as a continuation of its attack on welfare recipients.”[14] 

So it looks like they did profit! The Swansea factory will be closed along with the others despite 12.2% in growth and a 17% reduction in costs. It was never about profits or costs was it?

But Remploy wasn’t getting Contracts was it?

 

The more worrying aspect of the company’s strategy on sales is the outsourcing of work and the lack of tendering for public procurement contracts.

Letters from the NHS Forth Valley and Stirling Council to the Minister show it is clear that Remploy has not shown interest in tendering for large contracts that the company could have won.

It is also apparent that the senior managers work within a very nice comfort zone; no aggressive sales strategy exists and no stretching targets exist. The trade unions believe this is part of the conspiracy to fail and the failure of the sales team is the responsibility of the Chief Executive and the Board.

We understand that because of the previous reduction in manpower that large amounts of work is being turned away or outsourced. Birmingham factory and Healthcare are prime examples[15].

 

DPAC seems to be saying that disability Charities and some DPOs are involved in some way that is not in line with the principles of disability rights- this does not make sense

 

It depends on your idea of disability rights; the old chestnut that keeps being trotted out is that closing the factories is all about the right of disabled people to be included. We ask what are the ex-Remploy workers going to be included in exactly? Film clubs?

Where was their choice and their rights in where they wanted to work and in keeping their paid jobs in the worst recession since the 1930s?

So who Gains?

 

 Cleary not the Remploy workers, they are merely the collective sacrificial lamb on the altar of profit and gain by others or those with vested interests if you prefer.

These include:

The beneficiaries in the invited team that made up the Sayce report.

The director who was on the board of Remploy and RADAR (now DRUK: chief executive Liz Sayce) simultaneously–there’s got be some gain there.

Those disability charities and organisations who may gain from the community pot to support the Remploy workers in their unemployment

KPGM (and ATOS who own KPGM) whose report has so many disclaimers making it another gross waste of tax payers’ money

UNUM, but we are not sure how they gain yet-their inclusion in the Sayce consultation team must serve some purpose for them.

Remploy senior managers’ beneficiaries of a 1.2 million bonus payment in 2012 when it was clear that factories were earmarked for closure

Those companies and disability charities running work programs such as work for your benefits ‘work programs’ such as workfare.

Those that will further their careers (and income) by sitting on ‘expert’ panels discussing Access to Work (rather than paid jobs) in the wake of the closures

Remploy itself by winning contracts to deliver Access to Work for mental health users for every area tendered before the closure deal was complete[16]

Doesn’t all that show a conflict of Interests?

 

 Yes, but this is Tory Britain- who cares about other peoples’ lives anymore when they can make a few quid?

Debbie Jolly co-founder DPAC

twitter: @redjolly1


[1] Source: Labour Force Survey, Quarter 2, 2011

 [4] Written evidence submitted by the GMB May 2011

 [5] Sayce Report Analysis July 20th 2011 GMB,UNITE, Community

 [7] Written evidence submitted by the GMB May 2011

 [9] A new strategy for the employment of disabled people: a new concept in the field of employment – by Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary for Manufacturing Section on behalf of the Consortium of Trade Unions

 [11] Written evidence submitted by GMB May 2011

 [12] A new strategy for the employment of disabled people: a new concept in the field of employment – by Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary for Manufacturing Section on behalf of the Consortium of Trade Unions

 [15] Written evidence submitted by the GMB May 2011

 

Appendix

 List of those involved in Sayce Consultation NB we are still waiting for a list of those involved in the report itself.

The following organisations submitted evidence to the review. Source: appendix 3 of Sayce report

1. 104 films Limited
2. A4e
3. Acquired Brain Injury Forum for London
4. Action Group
5. Asperger’s Inc
6. Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
7. BASE
8. Birmingham City Council
9. British Assistive Technology Association
10. Bradford Council
11. Bristol and South Gloucestershire People First
12. Bristol City Council
13. British Psychological Society
14. Camden Society
15. Cardiff and Vale Coalition of Disabled People
16. Centre for Mental Health
17. Centre Point
18. Changing Faces
19. Cheshire East Council
20. Choices and Rights Disability Coalition
21. Elcena Jeffers Foundation
22. Employment Services at Westminster Centre for Independent Living
23. Enham College (RTC)
24. ERSA
25. Finchdale RTC
26. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
27. Hands Free Computing Ltd
28. Hao2.eu Ltd
29. Headway
30. Hertfordshire Action on Disability
31. Hillcrest Branch
32. Hudson Interpreting Services
33. Inclusion
34. Indigo Dyslexia
35. Ingeus
36. Kent County Council
37. Key Ring
38. KM Furniture Ltd
39. Lancashire County Council
40. Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living
41. Low Incomes Tax Reform Group
42. Mencap
43. Mental Illness
44. Mind
45. Monmouth People First
46. National Association of Deafened People
47. NASUWT (teachers union)
48. Newco Employment and Training
49. North Bank Forum
50. Nottinghamshire Deaf Society
51. Papworth Trust
52. People First
53. Pluss
54. Queen Alexandra College (RTC)
55. Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation (RTC)
56. Reed in Partnership
57. Rethink
58. Royal British Legion Industries
59. Royal College of Nursing
60. Royal College of Psychiatrists
61. Royal National College for the Blind (RTC)
62. RNIB
63. RNID
64. Scope
65. Scottish Association for Mental Health
66. Scottish Autism Service
67. Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
68. Sense
69. Shout Out
70. Signature
71. Slough Council
72. Social Firms FRC Group
73. St. Annes (social firm)
74. St Loye’s (RTC)
75. St Mungo’s
76. Sustainable Hub of Innovative Employment for People with Complex Needs (SHIEC)
77. The Association of National Specialist Colleges
78. The Coalition of RTC Providers (covers all nine residential colleges)
79. The Small Business Consultancy
80. Transition Information Network
81. Travel Matters UK
82. UNITE
83. UNUM
84. Vangent
85. Visibility
86. Vocational Rehabilitation Association
87. Welsh Assembly Government
88. Woman at Wish
89. Work Fit

Liz and the review team met with people from a wide range of other organisations including, among others, People First, National Centre for Independent Living, Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland, the Employers’ Forum on Disability, Remploy, the TUC, GMB, Social Policy Research Unit, Centre for Mental Health, Disability Alliance, Sense, UNITE, RNIB, Mencap, the Scottish Union for Supported Employment, a range of central government departments, Essex Coalition of Disabled People and many more.

N.B we do not suggest that those appearing on this list are all in favour of closure of the Remploy factories, but the list is telling, more so because DPAC also responded to this consultation and don’t seem to get a mention. The DPAC consultation response can be found here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 082012
 

The closure of the Remploy factories has ignited a wealth of media attention and strong feeling as well as differences of opinion between disabled people, and Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) on the position of disabled Remploy factory workers. The now infamous Sayce report called for closure of the factories in the ironically titled: ‘Getting in, staying in and getting on: disability employment support fit for the future’. This was followed by a consultation exercise in July 2011 to which DPAC responded outlining the impact of the closure of the factories and urging that they remain open.

Since then, DPAC, DPOs, Unions, disabled workers, disabled and non-disabled people have been active on the proposed closures in a number of ways which have been publicised on the DPAC site. DPAC have invited Liz Sayce to comment, but she has not responded to our request.

Most recently the Sayce report has been accused of doing the Governments ‘dirty work’, as elitist and a part of the cuts agenda at the TUC Disabled Peoples’ conference. 

There was overwhelming support at the annual TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference for the campaign to fight the planned closure of the Remploy factories.

The government announced in March that 36 of the 54 remaining Remploy factories across the UK would close by the end of 2012, with the loss of more than 1,500 disabled people’s jobs, while there would be further consultation over the future of the other 18 factories.

The announcement was part of the government’s response to a consultation on last year’s review of employment support by Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK).

Sayce called in her report for funds currently used to subsidise the factories to be ploughed into more personalised forms of employment support for disabled people, including the Access to Work (AtW) scheme.

But Mandy Hudson, from the National Union of Teachers, told the conference that the Sayce report had “gone about doing the government’s dirty work”.

And she criticised “the completely cavalier way that Liz Sayce’s report sets adrift a whole set of disabled workers”.

The disabled peer Lord [Colin] Low also criticised Sayce’s report, and said its “highly individualised approach… seems to smack of elitism”.

Read more of the article by John Pring including the Remploy protest outside the offices of DR UK by Remploy workers and UKUncut here  

 Opening up the debate

Since the government announced the closures, some DPOs have backed its plans, arguing that the move was one towards the inclusion of disabled people.

But Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said:

This is a cut. It isn’t about inclusion. We shouldn’t let the government justify this in the name of inclusion.

She accepted that the disability movement has been divided on whether to support the closures, but she said:

What we need is a dialogue. This is us putting an alternative view forward which hopefully will get a debate going. That’s what we need. Read more

Letter to the Guardian

The publication of a letter against Remploy closures was published in both on-online and print versions of the Guardian on May 10. The letter was composed by Inclusion London, DPAC and unions. Many DPOs and disabled people signed in support of the Remploy workers. The letter was shortened and some names and DPOs were reduced due to space restrictions by the Guardian. This link  will take you to the letter with a link to the original letter’s wording. DPAC will be updating the names and DPOs that were left off the printed and online versions shortly. We asked Liz Sayce to comment, but she did not respond.

However, a response article to the letter was issued by DPO Breakthrough UK claiming that while they agreed with many aspects of our letter they could not join other DPOs in signing it and wanted to open up debate on the Remploy issue.

We agree with opening the debate, and provide a link to the thoughtful piece by disabled activist and comedian Laurence Clark published in the Independent: Remploy Closures: right in theory but where does it leave disabled employees?

Sean McGovern a former Remploy factory worker responded directly to the Breakthrough article

and Les Woodward a GMB convener and worker at the Swansea Remploy factory said of the Breakthrough article:

This article, unfortunately is typical of the “Politically Correct” brigades attitude to Supported Employment and the language they use to try and justify their positions…

Another unfortunate slant of this article is that it totally fails to take into account the effect on the workers themselves or indeed other disabled workers who given the present economic climate would give their eye teeth for a job any job. They would sell their soul for a job in Remploy that can provide skilled work, training and other support that employment in Remploy offers.

 I have said it many times and I will say it a lot more. No-one ever forced a gun to my head to work in Remploy, over the 28 years I have been employed by the Company, I have been free to leave at any time I wanted, just like any other worker in any other workplace.

 Of course whether or not I exercise that choice to leave is dependant not least on economic circumstances that I have found myself in and whether or not the alternative employment was viable in terms of remuneration or terms and conditions. No employment opportunities that can match those that I am on in Remploy have presented themselves as yet.

 No one would disagree with the aspirations of a fully inclusive society, and I for one would absolutely love to see the day when Remploy really was old fashioned and there would be no need for Remploy because we would have a fully inclusive society that caters for everyone. Unfortunately we live in a rather different world which is going further and further away from inclusion and equality of opportunity over the last 18 months or so rather than moving more towards inclusion and equal opportunity. The reason for this is that we are now governed by the rich for the rich and of the rich, while we get poorer and poorer.

 The ultimate shame in all this is that organisations such as the one who authored this article are wittingly or unwittingly collaborating with this Government in implementing cuts in the living standards of some of the very people they purport to support.

 Thanks a million to everyone that signed the letter, we really appreciate it and appreciate the support that you give us.

 Les

 We will provide more responses soon….

Previous pieces from DPAC and others

DPAC has always been transparent in its connections, actions and thoughts on the Remploy closures, which have been published on the DPAC web site, some of which we list here. We also include pieces by other groups

Remploy Closures: no segregated employment translates to unemployment for up to 2000 workers

DPAC Remploy Workers meeting London March 20th

Right to Work Pledges Support for Remploy workers

London meeting unites resistance to Remploy Closures

Furious workers hit out at Boss whose report led to Remploy factories getting the Axe

Demo for Remploy workers April 20th

Independent: Betrayed Disabled Workers protest against Remploy Closures

Fight the Remploy Closures

Remploy Public Meeting Thursday 26th April

Government accused of Hijacking Disability Equality Language to Justify Remploy Closures

The closure of Remploy factories is about cuts and cannot be justified by a misguided language of inclusion in a time when disabled people are facing the worse attacks on their inclusion, human rights and equality in UK history. Disabled people and DPOs need to support the Remploy workers rather than engaging in forms of ideological bullying that refuse to take into account the impacts on disabled peoples’ lives. Nor should they be so arrogant as to suggest that these workers shouldn’t have choice in where they chose to work. Less than 5% of Remploy workers in the last set of closures found alternative jobs, with some committing suicide-is this really something that we want to support for up to 2000 more disabled people under a flimsy Tory rhetoric of inclusion?

 

Disabled Peoples’ organisations support saving Remploy Jobs: letter published in print and online versions of Guardian

 Action, All Posts, Disability Rights, media, News, Politics, Welfare reforms  Comments Off on Disabled Peoples’ organisations support saving Remploy Jobs: letter published in print and online versions of Guardian
May 112012
 

Please see below for published letter in Guardian put together by Inclusion London, DPAC and allies including unions. The final letter needed to be shortened for publication, as a result we apologise to any signatories who may have missed as the Guardian also insisted on individual names representing each organisation. The text of the original full letter with our recommendations can be seen at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2012/04/sign-up-to-support-the-remploy-workers/

The strength and number of signatories that were published makes a mockery of the assertion in the Sayce report that 100% of disabled organisations support the closure of Remploy factories- this is simply not true!

DPAC, Inclusion London, listed organisations, unions and individuals will continue to support the Remploy workers against the loss of their jobs and will not be taken in by the spurious ‘disability inclusion’ argument being used to advocate more disabled people losing their jobs in a time of economic disaster for disabled people.

Please help support the Remploy workers by leaving comments to the letter at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/may/10/disabled-works-fight-remploy-jobs

Disabled workers fight to save Remploy factory job

Thursday 10 May 2012 21.00 BST

As a group of disabled people’s organisations, run by and for disabled people, we – together with other individuals and organisations – 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 (Report, 12 April). 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 scrap–heap 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.

True equality and inclusion will be achieved through 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; investment in high-quality employment support services that enable disabled people to find employment and stay in employment; the right to inclusive education and accessible training and apprenticeships for all disabled people; and commitment to tackle discrimination in the workplace through better understanding and enforcement of Equality Act duties.
Deaf and disabled people’s organisations and groups:
Tracey Lazard CEO, Inclusion London, Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts, Bill Scott Manager, Inclusion Scotland, Rahel Geffen Interim CEO, Disability Action in Islington, Lucy Byrne CEO, Richmond AID, Michelle Baharier CEO, Cooltan Arts, Caroline Nelson Director, Choice in Hackney, Roy Benjamin Chair, Merton Centre for Independent Living, Mark Harrison CEO, Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, Alan Kerr CEO, Artsline, Dr Ju Gosling Chair, Regard, Rosemary Nicholson Visually Impaired in Camden, David Stock CEO, Southwark Disablement Association, Joanne Munn Director, Greenwich Association of Disabled People, Pat Bhabha Director, Disability Action Waltham Forest, Sharon Schaffer London Visual Impairment Forum, Mary Hick deafPLUS, Caroline Jones Chair, Norfolk Association of Disabled LGBT People, Ellen Clifford Bromley Experts by Experience CIC, Gill Goble Brighton DPAC, Andy Greene Islington DPAC, Roger Lewis Lambeth DPAC, John McArdle Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights, Kevin James Atos Victims Group

Individuals:
Bill Holmwood, Richard Sturgess , Stephen Lee Hodgkins, Mo Stewart, Dr Stephen Hall, Caroline Richardson, Calum McLean, Pam Tinsley, Valerie Lang, Geoff Dewhirst, Sandra Dooley, Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, Mik Scarlet, Isabel Ros López, Caroline Jones, Liana Lloyd, Alan Woodward, Diane Lucas, Ralph Pettingill, Alexandra Stein, Brid Fitzpatrick, Sasha Callaghan, Beverley Woodburn, Keith Hodgson, Ben Samuel, Julia Cameron, Ellen Clifford, Elane Heffernan, Vicky Ayech, Teresa Rayner, William Nutthall , Merry Cross, John Collings, Derek Kelter, Kaliya Franklin, Richard Lumb, Derek Stevens, John Newman, Maureen and Martyn Stagg, Stephanie Cadd, Jayne Linney, Liaquat Hussain, Ian Parkhill (a member of Worcester Coalition for Independent Living), Pat Onions, Rosemary O’Neill, Jean Ashlan, Jonathan Toye, David Steele, John McArdle , Paul Smith, Deborah King, Alison Morgan, David Brown, Mark Thomas, Danka Gordon, Les Seavor, Sue Brassey, Maureen Armstrong, Iyiola Olafimihan, Eleanor Firman, Gail Jeynes, Rosemary Iddenden, Dora Kostiuk, Bronwen Williams, Roger Lewis, Rob Murthwaite, Andy Greene, Beverley and Robert Stevens, Paul Farrelly MP, John McDonnell MP, Lisa Nandy MP, Peter Beresford, Karen Wild, Ellen Goodey

 

Other organisations/groups:
Jonathan Bartley Co-director, Ekklesia, Dr Artemi Sakellariadis Director, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, Jo Claire CEO, Three Cs Support, Martin Rathfelder Director, Socialist Health Association, Alison Blackwood Head of policy and knowledge, London Voluntary Service Council, Peter Corbett CEO, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Margie Arts Barrow and Furness Pensioners’ Association, Stefania Rulli-Gibbs Communications manager, Brandon Trust, Gordon McFadden Director of policy, Limbcare, Bahir Laattoe Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Marie Lynam The Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Unions:
Sean McGovern Unite executive council disability representative, Ivan Hickman Secretary, Stoke-on-Trent NUT, Steve Roberts Chair, Warwickshire Fire Brigade Union, Rob Crowther Unite (UCU branch), Ray Smith Secretary, Newcastle Central Unite 1901, Dr Helen Groom GP, Gateshead Medical Practitioners Union (part of Unite), Gavin Dudley GMB workplace rep, Helen Winterburn Branch chair, Unison Darlington LG branch, Barrow Trades Union Council, Chris Youett NUJ rep on TUC Midlands, David O’Tooe Branch development organiser, UCU Exeter office, Doug Oxer RMT Union, David Lowdon GMB member, SWP member, Martin Bove Unite member, John Lea Unite, Matt Brierley on behalf of PCS Ofsted branch committee, Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Neil Smith GMB branch secretary

Apr 222012
 

At a meeting called by DPAC on 19th April 2012 to discuss the issues for the disabled people’s movement in opposing the closure of Remploy factories, Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive of Inclusion London, London’s leading Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisation, called on disabled people to unite in opposing the government’s cynical decision to snatch employment from thousands of disabled workers.

Over 30 disabled people and allies attended the meeting held at the University of London Union to build support from the disability people’s community for the national Remploy demonstration which took place on 20th April and the meeting called by Unite for 26th April. The meeting represented the first time the disabled people’s movement has openly discussed the complex and controversial issues which the Remploy dispute touches on and which have led to the stigma which still largely surrounds support for the Remploy workers from within the movement. However, whilst some disabled people are publically quoted as celebrating the closures as a victory for disability equality, DPAC has criticised the closures and the lack of any form of worker/user- led alternative which was proposed in the Sayce report.

Lazard explained Inclusion London’s position in opposing the factory closures and how this is in no way an endorsement of segregated employment. At a time of recession when non-disabled people cannot find jobs and when benefit cuts are pushing genuine disabled claimants off benefits and into poverty, it is irresponsible to remove meaningful employment from thousands of disabled people. The Sayce Report recommended investing money saved from the factory closures in Access to Work, the government programme that funds support for disabled people in mainstream employment, but with continuing cuts and restrictions to Access to Work, it is evident that the closures have nothing to do with building an inclusive society and are nothing more than yet another a cynical attempt to save money by targeting the most disadvantaged members of the community. Rob Murthwaite, DPAC national steering committee, spoke out about the need to nail the lie that this dispute is about disabled people’s equality.

There was debate around the need for segregated workplaces and also about the best way to effectively support the Remploy workers in their dispute. There was unanimous agreement that the Remploy workers have been mismanaged by non-disabled people with senior managers taking home 1.8 million in bonuses in 2011 while the factory floor were under a pay restraint. There was a strong feeling that government should have invested in reforming the factories according to user led models so that the expertise of the workers could be utilised in establishing viable, sustainable enterprises. Questions were raised about figures given out by the government purportedly showing the unsustainability of the factories. There was also consensus that on the core disabled people’s principle of nothing about us without us, the movement needs to listen and respect the voices of the workers. Those voices say no to factory closures so we need to respect that and support the workers in their self-determined struggle.

John McDonnell MP spoke about the grim prospects for the thousands of disabled Remploy workers set to lose their jobs. In areas with Remploy factories the ratio of people chasing each job is 30-40: 1 which is far higher than average. After losing their income from employment the workers will face serious difficulty in obtaining enough income to survive from welfare benefits as the system is ever tightened and the government moves ahead with proposals to replace DLA with PIP and in so doing remove 20% of claimants. He spoke about work he is involved in joint with PCS to document cases where coroners have directly linked deaths to the loss of benefits.

The meeting agreed actions in support for the Remploy workers to include a letter from DPAC and Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations to the press opposing the factory closures, support for the meeting called by Unite on 26th April and participation in the demonstration on 20th April.

 

SAVE REMPLOY – PUBLIC MEETING THURSDAY 26TH APRIL 6.30 – 8.30 PM AT FARADAY HOUSE 48-51 Old Gloucester Street London , WC1N 3AE (Opposite Unite’s Holborn Office car park)

 

Tracey Lazard’s presentation:Remploy presentation – IL

Jun 242011
 

Government cutbacks increasingly threaten disabled people’s right to work. It is now more difficult to qualify for resources from Access to Work; in addition, those with agreed packages are now being systematically examined irrespective of routine review dates with a view to reducing support.

Access to Work is a government programme set up to support people who face barriers to employment as a result of their health or impairment through provision of advice and support with extra costs to both disabled people and their employers.  The programme is critical in upholding the right of disabled people to access mainstream employment and it actually makes a profit for the government: the amount invested in the programme is exceeded by the amount brought in through the taxes of working disabled people and through savings made in benefit payments, social care support and care, and medical costs. The Sayce report into supported employment: “Getting In, Staying In and Getting On” (June 2011) found that for every £1 spent on support through Access to Work, the government recoups £1.48. The Department for Work and Pensions nevertheless has a budget to cut and at a meeting in March 2011 the head of the Access to Work team, Steve Lismore, confirmed that the direction of travel for Access to Work is to reduce resources.

The personal experience of disabled people shows that Access to Work advisors are, in line with this strategy, adopting an attitude as guardians of public money more preciously than ever before. The onus is on the disabled person to prove beyond question the genuineness of their support needs. This is not only intimidating for the disabled person but also counter-productive for the supposed government agenda of getting disabled people off benefits and into work. Many people rely on Access to Work support and without any guarantee of receiving that support would be unable to take up employment offers, however you cannot apply to Access to Work without a guaranteed job and start date. For many disabled people the programme is therefore irrelevant.

For some disabled people Access to Work has traditionally been one of the most supportive and accessible support streams. The programme takes an approach in line with the social model of disability where individual applications are considered on a case-by-case basis and there is an avoidance of policy statements that treat disabled people in groups according to impairment. Members of the Newham Action Hub reported that they received a better service from their Access to Work advisors than from their care managers. For other disabled people, particularly those with more complex support needs, the programme fails to meet their needs. Moreover, as resources are being reduced the wider experience is already less positive, for example, with people being told that Access to Work might possibly not be providing equipment such as wheelchairs in the future. There is a revised list of equipment that has been included in the Access to Work guidance in order to assist advisers in making operational decisions. The effectiveness of the programme is only going to be further compromised under current conditions.

Individuals with impairments with which advisors are not familiar have less chance of being able to make a case for support that is accepted; people with learning difficulties or mental health support needs are frequently told by individual advisors that they are not eligible for ongoing support costs, rendering them unable to stay in or take up employment. In one example a woman was told that people with mental health support needs could not get support costs from Access to Work but could only “be referred to Mind for counselling to get better”. In another example a young man with a learning difficulty was told that Access to Work cannot provide full-time support costs and that he would not be able to get more than 6 hours support per week past the first 6 weeks of his employment, irrespective of any evidence of genuine support need. Experience suggests that current Access to Work policy disadvantages applicants with mental health support needs or learning difficulties. The DWP continues to deny this link but failure to recognise the importance of being seen to be able to provide ongoing support costs means that this under-representation will continue.

As part of a tightening up of resources, Access to Work are contacting all those currently in receipt of support through the programme and reviewing their packages with a view to identifying possible reductions. This is un-nerving for disabled people as, for many, any reduction would mean having to leave their job. People with learning difficulties had to fight to be accepted as eligible for the programme in the first place and advisors have continued to struggle to understand how a person with a learning difficulty can be capable of doing their own job and have support needs at the same time. Pressure to identify reduction therefore brings with it much anxiety. In one example a man’s support worker was contacted without his knowledge to find out from her a task list of things he “can do on his own”. There are very few people with learning difficulties in paid employment – the Office for Disability Issues calculates 6.4% of people labelled moderate to severe. The figure for those who have meaningful jobs with real wages will be lower still. It should be a right of disabled people to work, moreover it is in the taxpayer’s interest to raise the employment aspirations and expectations of disabled people. For Access to Work to risk the few ground-breaking jobs there are for people with learning difficulties in meaningful employment is irresponsible.

The Sayce Report acknowledges the value of the Access to Work and calls for further investment. Let’s hope the government responds to this and uses the programme to effectively support disabled people into work instead of focusing on squeezing support off disabled people to the detriment of the economy.

———-Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford