Yesterday I spent the day with Neil Pearce. He suffers from muscular dystrophy, a disorder that gets worse over time and for the last three years he’s been forced to use a wheelchair.
He works at Remploy in Swansea so the worsening of his condition hasn’t affected his job in anyway, in fact he’s moved off the factory floor and has taken on a more managerial role. A bit of a coup for him.
The government’s decision to close 27 of the 54 factories has been a controversial one. Why close places of work that clearly have a huge social impact and help protect some of our most vulnerable people?
Well, it was in fact a leading disability charity, Disability Rights UK, that reviewed the way the government spends its disability employment budget and found it could be better spent. It recommended targeting individuals and focusing money on Access to Work. It also argued segregated employment is outdated.
The government then took on the recommendations and is putting them into action. Those aside, there’s perhaps an even bigger problem: the factories lose money – around £60 million pounds a year. They simply aren’t a going concern.
- ITV News' Tom Barton reports on today's protest action:
But money and assumptions about how people with disabilities want to work mean nothing to those who work at Remploy. They feel betrayed by Disability Rights UK and think they should have the right to work where they want, whether it’s in sheltered employment or not.
It is a very difficult argument to come to in a clear-headed fashion. After all, the facts about Remploy factories should speak for themselves, but the moral and emotional arguments attached make the issue far more complex.