Remploy Closures – Gazette column – March 2012

Carwyn Jones AM supporting Remploy workers
Carwyn Jones AM supporting Remploy workers

The recent announcement from the UK Government that 7 of the Remploy factories in Wales will be closed is devastating for those disabled people and their families who will be affected by the decision.

I am extremely disappointed to learn that the Bridgend Remploy factory is also marked for closure. I visited the factory shortly before Christmas and was impressed
with the work undertaken and with the supportive and accessible environment for disabled workers there.

The Welsh Government has made our vigorous opposition to the Remploy closures extremely clear. In current economic times, disabled people are at a
significant disadvantage when trying to secure or keep a job. As Remploy goes into a consultation period regarding redundancies, the workers are faced with great
uncertainty as to their futures.

In an ideal world, more employers would have positive attitudes towards disabled people, workplaces and working practices would be fully accessible and disabled
people would have equal opportunities to access mainstream employment as any other person.

Sadly this is not the case, and the timing of the Remploy closures could not be worse. The UK Government’s Welfare Reform is falling hard on disabled people
through direct cuts to benefits and public services and indirectly through reduced funding for organisations that provide services to enable disabled people to live independently. Independent living is a crucial component for disabled people being able to access all areas of life equally, including quality employment opportunities.

The good practice and expertise developed within Remploy for providing robust workplace support for disabled people should be a reality across all workplaces. Disabled people are well supported within Remploy and those with complex support needs face significant barriers to finding similar opportunities outside of this
environment.

The UK Government has pledged a support package for Remploy workers who lose their jobs, to enable their transition into mainstream employment. The details of this
are not yet known, nor do we know where new jobs will come from for these workers to move to.

The Welsh Government will be examining options for future support for the factories in Wales, the development of social enterprises being one option. The Welsh
Government will also address access to training and employment in it’s Framework for Action on Independent Living, published later this year. However, specialist employment support for disabled people is a matter reserved to the UK Government, and not devolved to Wales.

It is right to aim for for a fully inclusive society where disabled people do not need to be separated to ensure their employment but in current times, Remploy is needed
and I will be supporting my constituents in the Bridgend Remploy in their fight for a secure future.