I have today received written notice from Esther McVey MP, the new UK Minister for Disabled People that the Edinburgh Remploy factory will close. The Minister justified the decision to close the site because no ‘best’ or ‘final’ offers were secured for the Edinburgh site.
This is a devastating blow and has serious implications for the workers and their families. The most galling part of the Minister’s statement was her assertion that the Government remain ‘committed’ to safeguarding jobs and aims to spend the Specialist Disability Employment Provision more ‘effectively’. I have no time for any crocodile tear statements from the Minister or blatant hypocrisy from the UK Government. I have made direct appeals to both the UK and the Scottish Government to do all that was possible to save supported employment in Edinburgh but sadly it has been ignored.
The importance of supported employment cannot be underestimated and I strongly believe new investment in this sector and contracts from public sector organisations are a practical way forward. The brutal reality is that disabled workers face significant barriers into work and supported employment helps to increase their job opportunities and build their confidence in a way that may not be available in mainstream workplaces. The UK Government are completely out of touch on this issue and their entire rationale doesn’t add up. The decision to target support in order to help disabled people into mainstream employment completely ignores the benefits of disability specific workplaces.
I have met with Remploy employees and share their concerns that the current Conservative Government’s decision could result in many out of work and stuck on benefits. This is clearly not in the best interests of the workers, the economy or our society.
With the loss of Blindcraft last year and now the prospect of further redundancies at Remploy in the near future, it is absolutely vital that the Scottish Government step up to the plate. This is no time for shirking responsibility. The Scottish Government must now redouble their efforts, take action that safeguards job, increase opportunities for all and send a clear message to public sector organisations that they should allocate contracts to supported employment organisations. My previous visit to City Building in Glasgow demonstrated to me the benefit of joined up work across the public sector.
I am set to meet with the Minister when she comes to the Scottish Parliament on 22 October 2012. Rest assured I will ensure that the voices of Remploy staff are heard loud and clear.
This is a dark day for Remploy workers. They deserve better.