by In Wales
Thu Mar 15th, 2012 at 07:39:27 AM EST
In time the inevitable happens.
We are in an odd environment as far as I can see. Tools/products of socialism (National Health Service, welfare state) are being picked apart and those most needing just a little bit of respite in this environment are being tied to the end of the battering ram.
I have many professional hats and the UK Government's announcements about the upcoming closure of Remploy factories has been snapping at my heels for the last few days.
BBC News - Remploy plans factory closures with 1,700 job losses
Remploy - which provides work for people with disabilities - is planning to close 36 of its 54 factories, putting more than 1,700 jobs at risk.
Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller said the sites could be closed by the end of the year as they were not financially viable.
Remploy factories were set up in the post war 1940s to give disabled veterans jobs. In its current form, Remploy consists of a number of factories that employ disabled people, providing heavily subsidised jobs but an environment where those with complex needs are able to work. There are other services offered but the main target is the factories, the majority of which run at a massive loss. Welfare reform, benefit cuts, further restrictions on Access to Work funding, bigger sanctions for those who are unemployed, all falling heavily on disabled people. But they aren't quite done yet, Remploy needs scooping up too.
If that sounds cynical then more cynical is my claim that the UK Government has hijacked the language of the disability equality movement in order to justify pulling the plug on the factories and leaving hundreds of disabled workers without jobs. Despite all the blathering from the Government about support packages, there are no jobs for these workers to go to, some have very complex needs that can't be easily accommodated in mainstream workplaces, and in all reality these workers won't have access to good quality mainstream jobs. They will join the very back of the damn queue.
But the situation is complicated by the policy of disability organisations across the UK, one of which I am a Director for. Disability equality calls for disabled people to have equal opportunities to access all areas of life as any other person. In this respect, segregated workplaces are missing the point. Although Remploy factories provide tailored support and provide access to employment that doesn't exist elsewhere, the point is, all workplaces should be accessible and all disabled people who wish to should be able to secure and keep good quality mainstream jobs.
So it makes Remploy an easy target under the auspices of "this is what disabled people themselves are calling for". The reality is these people will lose their jobs, get some token short-term 'support' to transition into a mainstream environment that largely will not stick. We'll all carry on marginalising disabled people and trapping the majority of them in poverty because they can't access meaningful employment opportunities.
Counter-productive here is the way in which disability organisations are coming under attack for keeping the line that mainstreaming is the ultimate aim. Disability organisations recognise that for those losing their jobs in Remploy, it is devastating. They recognise that the timing of the closures is appalling, there are no jobs to move people to. In the current economic climate, attitudes towards disabled people are very poor, disability hate crime is up and there is a woefully inadequate infrastructure for supporting disabled people in mainstream employment as it is.
I don't need a professional hat to say that, I know it from personal experience.
The UK Government has moved to the closure of Remploy factories for all the wrong reasons, whilst deliberately misrepresenting calls for disability equality. This is where the anger needs to be directed, not at those who are part of a life long fight to be able to have the same access to making choices about life, work and their place in mainstream society, as everyone else.