by Sean McGovern
In the summer of 2011 when the damning Sayce Report on ‘Disability Employment Support for the Future’ was published Sayce and Marie Miller (Minister for Disabled People) sounded the death knell of all Remploy factories, consigning thousands of disabled Remploy workers to a future without work, ultimately leading to poverty.
Last summer most of the remaining Remploy factories closed, leaving a rump, who learned their fate in December – that is the majority would close with the attendant loss of jobs.
Again promises were given by this government that all that could be done to secure work in mainstream employment would be done by the agencies set up by the DWP.
While not actually promising to place ex-Remploy workers into employment, Miller promised: “Any disabled member of [Remploy] staff who is made redundant will receive an offer of individualised support for up to 18 months to help with the transition from government-funded sheltered employment to mainstream employment.” Indeed, the government stated they would put ringfence £8 million for specialist employment support for the group.
Well, as we all know, a Tory promise is only binding up until the next policy crisis they create for themselves. Of the 1,000 Remploy workers sacked last year 35 have found new jobs. For the number crunchers among you, that’s 0.035% in work!
Yes Duncan Smith, Miller and McVey – we did tell you so; over and over again, we told you that a combination of discriminatory employers and lack of jobs, due to your austerity fuelled triple-dip recession, militates against disabled people in the field of employment.
Recently a group of Remploy workers met in Barking. To the horror of an ex-Remploy shop steward (currently on ESA) and a Unite organiser the overwhelming majority of those ex-Remploy workers were not only unemployed, but almost all were on JSA, and none was in receipt of the individualised support promised by the ConDems.
What makes this neglect so damning is this. When an unemployed person signs up to JSA they sign a contract stating they are prepared to work at least 40 hours per week and travel up to a radius of 90 minutes to and from work. Many disabled people can’t manage these times. While most Remploy workers were contracted to a 35-hour week; some worked shorter weeks; and few would have had three hours per day added for travelling.
Given that this group has not been properly advised there is a risk that if a job becomes available that they are not able to take up due to length of week and distance to travel they would be in breach of JSA and liable to benefit sanction.
Being denied proper advice could also mean that many of this group are not receiving the correct levels of benefit to which they are entitled. Thus, rather than receiving individualised help after being thrown out of their jobs; this group has been shafted from pretty much every direction possible.