Remploy, still showing our government the way forward

Remploy, still showing the government the way forward

This article was born out of a research mission and the fact that I was told by a friend to stop being lazy and making excuses in regard to my lack of blog updates, for which I apologise. I should instead live by the mantra that there is always something to write about.

The research mission was to find out more about Nikki Fox, the BBC’s not so newly appointed disability correspondent. Not you understand, in a creepy ‘oh she’s blonde and in a wheelchair’ or in a ‘tell me everything about your disability kind of way-’ as that’s equally weird.  In truth I still don’t know what Nikki’s disability is and it would appear that I like most don’t care, preferring instead to focus on her journalistic ability.

To that end I have found Nikki’s presenting a journalistic style to be energetic, much like I imagine her to be in reality. I think Nikki, through her enthusiasm and humour is trying to show characteristics which most disabled people want to be known for. I have said many times that you will not meet a disabled person without a sense of humour. We may well have to find it on occasion but it is always there.

Whilst at times I have found Nikki’s humour to be slightly misplaced and slightly over used, thus on occasion deflecting the seriousness of the subject she is covering, I wish her the best of luck. I would much rather have someone of Nikki’s personality beaming the characteristics to the nation from which I’d like to be known as opposed to a Miss Trunchbull type of correspondent. Kudos must also be given to the BBC, for starting to address the void in diversity and subsequently bringing in a correspondent to whom disabled people can relate.

There was however, one particular article of Nikki’s which captured my attention. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29843567 an article entitled “What are Remploy workers doing now? For those of you who don’t know and I didn’t, Remploy have employed people with disabilities since November 1946 when its first factory opened.

Formed on 7th April 1945 to support injured WW2 veterans and injured miners at its height Remploy employed 10,000 people, the vast majority of whom had a disability. http://www.itv.com/news/2013-10-31/final-remploy-factory-closes/. As of 31st October 2013 all factories have ceased production.

So factories and in particular their workers, producing products good enough for the queen to wear are now surplus to requirements. The reasons for the closures are logical, if slightly unjust to those less fortunate workers. For despite the fact that Remploy operated as a social enterprise it was making loses. Part of the reason for this is because, like most UK businesses Remploy struggled to compete with imports from Asian factories. Another factor is the governments wish to privatise Remploy and then of course there’s the huge swell of public positivity regarding the transition of disabled people into mainstream employment.

CEO of Remploy Bob Warner makes the following statement:

“There is now an acceptance that disabled people would prefer to work in mainstream employment alongside non-disabled people rather than in sheltered workshops from which they do not progress and develop.”

A statement which I whole heartedly agree with and indeed Remploy has now transformed itself into a specialist recruitment agency. An agency the works in partnership with equalapproach.com recruitment, which in the past 5 years has helped 100,000 people, find employment. This is an approach the government supports despite Remploy’s impending privatisation in March of next year. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29843567.

I worked for a company similar to Remploy here in the Southwest which also had a factory. It was always the intention of this company that the factory be used as a springboard into mainstream employment and it worked.

So two questions need to be asked here, the first is has the government been too hasty in closing all of Remploy’s factories and what happens to the disabled people who aren’t fortunate enough to find employment? The answer to the first is yes, in my opinion as everyone wants to work, everyone wants to feel a worth, despite what Lord Freud may believe. To hear Lord Freud’s comments and his apology visit: http://news.sky.com/story/1353507/minister-sorry-for-disabled-wage-comments

The answer to the second question is simply that the feeling of worth which we all desire fades away.  So why are the government not doing more? I have read multiple statements saying that around 50% of the 6.9million disabled people of working age in the UK are unemployed. Good enough to make garments for the queen but not good enough to be employed….

Charity Leonard Cheshire performed research in Scotland whereby they sent CV’s to employers, declaring a disability in one set and omitting it in others. Incredibly, in our multicultural, diversity accepting land, it was proven that omitting disclosure of a disability enabled the candidates to sit twice as many interviews. This only strengthens my view that the right to place the statement ‘we are an equal opportunities employer’ should be removed from all job advertisements. Source: http://www.nikkifoxtv.co.uk/ – disabled and desperate to work part one.

It is wonderful to have Remploy and other such companies paving the way for disabled people to succeed in mainstream employment but surely our elected government should be doing more to help? Perhaps rather the cutting benefits including the independent living fund source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-28463459, our coalition government should be helping those with disabilities.

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