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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 092012
 

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/