The arguments over supported employment boil down to one thing only, the choice of the individual to work in a Remploy factory. Remploy factories are organised and have good health and safety records; up to recent years many of the factories offered decent and challenging job types.
Unfortunately, in recent years many Remploy factories have been de-skilled; a ploy by the company to make jobs less attractive, thus to force people away from factories.
The company, in cahoots with successive governments (and remember the start of Remploy's demise began with a report from Peter Thurnman, in 1994, who tried to make a case for Remploy to be taken under the 'protection' of the private sector; and, Michael Portillo's taking lucrative textiles contracts away from them in 1995) has sought to run down the factory side of the business.
Why run factories with its inherent difficulties, such as going out to find work (despite the 2006 Public Contracts Regulations (Regulation 7) giving each factory the right to a minimum of 1 public contract) and dealing with trade unions; no, it's easier to deal with unemployed disabled people pushing them through a revolving door system of employment. A job here for three-months, another over there for six-months, another one with another supermarket for two-months. Each time Remploy chalking up another job found, another disabled person in employment.
If the government supplied Remploy with enough public contracts to fill their order books their factories could be self-sustaining in a few years time. Such a policy would barely register on the radar of the £250 billion, or so, of public contracts annually put out to tender.
As things are Liz Sayce of RADAR is condemning Remploy factories to closure; and, Remploy workers to a future of poverty - of those Remploy workers who lost their jobs 3½-years ago, some 85% are still unemployed. Sayce's suggestion that factories can be turned into Co-ops or Social Enterprises, without a government subsidy, is a false premise. The idea any kind of business can start up with, virtually, empty order books is risible, and the suggestion is disingenuous.
The trade union and wider labour and community movement must get behind Remploy workers and send a message loud and clear to this government and Sayce that disabled workers should have a choice; and, if that choice is in a supported and organised workplace, then so be it!