When Remploy closed down 30 of its factories 18 months ago it justified their actions on the grounds of the cost of employing disabled people within a factory setting. At the time they produced highly inflated costs per capita for factory workers while making wild claims that they could get 20,000 people a year into ‘mainstream’ employment at a fraction of the cost of factory employees.
Remploy has not achieved anything remotely close to their over-inflated projections. Indeed, they, like the other players in the employment services for disabled people, have fallen woefully – Remploy boast 10,500 jobs found this year up from 7,200 for the previous 12 months. Remploy and the other ‘providers’ blame the recession; yet, in 2007/8 they only managed 6,500 jobs.
Many people connected with Remploy are also aware of the double counting that goes on with these figures. For instance they may find me a job in June which I hold down for seven months – this kind of revolving door employment being typical for lots of disabled people; especially those with poor qualifications – then find me another, say three months later.
If this happens with a small amount, say 20% of 6,500; this then skews the figures quite significantly. Rather than finding jobs for 6,500 individual disabled people; they’ve in reality found work for 5,200. It may not surprise you that Remploy used similar inventive mathematical reckoning when calculating that each factory employee was subsidised by £23,000 per annum; and, that Remploy could place disabled workers into ‘mainstream’ employment for around £3,500 each.
On the issue of the over-inflated figure of £23,000 per person, the company calculated all the running costs and the overheads of the entire company into this figure, including their Interwork arm. Add to this the fact that the company has largely ignored favourable public procurement regulations that if properly fought for would fill the factories order books – Remploy currently receives about 20% from public contracts.
I had a discussion with an ex-Remploy worker yesterday; the man (call him J) is disabled and worked in a Remploy factory for quite a few years (having a disability being a prerequisite to employment at Remploy when he joined) before taking voluntary redundancy in March 2008; and, he’s been unemployed since.
J told me he’d attended his local Remploy Branch (he does this in conjunction with his JSA agreement) and was told that as from 20 October he’d no longer qualify for the services Remploy offers. Apparently, despite years of service in one of their factories, the principle criteria being he had a disability, Remploy is re-categorising him as able-bodied. Miraculously, Remploy has laid hands upon him and deemed him ‘fit’ to go out in the wide world and compete with other ‘fit’ people!
Remploy is undoubtedly looking ahead at the oncoming cuts; no bad thing for any organisation funded by central government. However, instead of standing up for and defending disabled people it would appear that they’re going through their books trying to redefine the disability status of their ex-employees, and maybe even those remained employed by them after their factories closed.
This kind of behaviour from one of Britain’s largest employers and provider of employment services of disabled people is shocking. Not satisfied with taking peoples’ livelihoods away and throwing them on benefits they are now attempting to rid themselves of the very people they were set up to help back in the late 1940s.
This kind of behaviour is symptomatic of the direction our society is heading. We, in the trade union movement, were always mistrustful of Remploy. We were aware that, ultimately, Remploy only served one purpose; and, that was to look after a few people at the top while paying lip service to its workers or work seekers.
Well, the Remploy Board has had a good run for its money. When the cuts come they will follow any government decision without putting up a fight. Their employees and others who look to them for support will end up with nothing while they’ll get paid-off handsomely with money, titles and honours.