UNION leaders warned that a government review into employment services for disabled people could lead to the closure of 54 Remploy factories – including one in Huddersfield – and the loss of 2,500 jobs.
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said she was “attracted” by the new model for Remploy suggested by Liz Sayce, chief executive of the disability charity RADAR.
This would see Remploy leave public sector ownership, with workers and organisations offered the chance to create new businesses or acquire existing ones. But general union the GMB said that if there were no prospects that the 54 Remploy factories could survive without public support.
The factories include one at Tandem Industrial Estate, Waterloo, which makes headrests for motor vehicles and employs about 35 people.
GMB national officer Phil Davies said: “The current employment in the 54 factories are real jobs making products for companies like Jaguar and supplying goods to the armed forces.
“GMB will staunchly defend these jobs and the communities they are in.”
Ms Miller said: “The Sayce review put forward a number of recommendations about how this money could be better used to support thousands more disabled people, giving them maximum choice and control over the services they receive.”
She said that despite significant investment, including a £555m modernisation budget and £11m for restructuring, Remploy had not met most of its targets.
Ms Sayce said: “The work aspirations of disabled people have changed. People want the chance to work in every role from hairdressing to engineering, in every area of the economy.”
She added: “There was a consensus amongst disability organisations that segregated employment is not the right model for the 21st century.
“There is the potential to help around 35,000 more disabled people thro ugh the changes I am recommending, by spending the money we have more effectively and ensuring people who are most disadvantaged get more effective support.”