10 September 2013

In August 2012 the Remploy factory at Penzance closed, one of several. The Tory Libdem government had decided, following the report by Liz Sayce, that the factories took too large a proportion – a fifth – of the funds available for disabled people of working age; the money saved by closures would be better used to help more disabled people get jobs in mainstream workplaces (Hansard 16 October 2012 column 62WH and 4 July 2013 column 1079).

I promise you, this is better
Taken by themselves the economics and widening opportunities are faultless. After all, as I pointed out on the blog last year, Iain Duncan Smith, the works and pensions secretary, said in May 2012 of the program of closures and hoped-for move to mainstream employment: “I promise you, this is better” (Sunday Express 6 May 2012).

Help, support, monitoring
However, what about the people in Remploy factories who lose their jobs when the factories close? What does the government’s “better” turn out to be in actuality?

The government said it had put in place “a substantial package” of help and support and monitoring for the Remploy employees made redundant. Tailored support would be available to individuals for eighteen months after the factory closed.

When Labour closed Remploy factories in 2008 there was no monitoring of the redundant employees and no dedicated help for them: a shameful and scandalous episode for Labour. The Tory Libdem government has on paper done very much better.

I say on paper because the consequences of the closure in August 2012 of the Remploy factory at Penzance have not been wholly rosy. Of the thirty three employees made redundant at Penzance Remploy twelve (36 percent), are now in work and fourteen (42 percent) are on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). Seven (21 percent) said their intention was to retire but it is not known whether they did. Of the fourteen on ESA or JSA, five are currently on the training scheme Work Choice. If one disregards the retired seven, a year after the closure less than half of the former workers have actual jobs and it is unclear whether they are full time or part time jobs.

That is not a success story, is it? Is it “better,” as Smith promised, in Penzance?

Closure of Remploy factories is a policy which Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour have supported and implemented. It looks like a failure that has hurt people for a well-meant theory.

The local media reported last year that 32 people were employed at Penzance Remploy; the DWP now confirms 33 were made redundant.