WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE PENZANCE REMPLOY WORKERS?

3 November 2014


Three updates at the foot of the post

The Remploy factory at Penzance closed in August 2012, part of a program of closures by the Tory Libdem government. Labour also had closed Remploy factories in 2008.

The theory
The well-meant theory, widely but not universally supported, was that the closure of the loss-making factories would enable a redistribution of finite disability money to help more disabled people into mainstream employment which positively was a much better place for them to work. There would be serious support to help the workers who had lost their Remploy jobs on closure back into work. Iain Smith, the works and pensions secretary, said in May 2012 of the program, “I promise you, this is better”.

The report Getting in, staying in, and getting on by Liz Sayce sets out the case for change.

Cornwall Council supported the closures and redistribution of funds. In a measured response to the Department for works and pensions (DWP) consultation the council emphasized the importance of specialist employment help for the Remploy workers whose jobs had gone and recited the positive outcomes possible for them: choice, inclusion, raising individual confidence and status. The council’s response is on page 26 of Disability employment support: fulfilling potential.

The local outcome
The closures took place during a recession, not the best time to get disabled people into mainstream work, as some observed at the time. Back in 2012 seven people from Penzance Remploy said they were going to retire from work and presumably they did; 25 agreed to be tracked by the DWP. Last year I pointed out that a year after the closure only half of the tracked former workers had actual jobs.

And now, two years after the closure of the Penzance factory?

The last two years are not a static picture and some people seem to have moved in to and out of work, perhaps some jobs were temporary, but of the 25 former Penzance Remploy workers tracked, currently 13 are in work – it is unclear whether these are full time or part time jobs – and 3 are on jobseekers allowance (JSA) and 8 are on employment and support allowance (ESA). One seems to be neither in work nor on JSA or ESA.

Let me be clear.

At bottom, for at least half of the Penzance Remploy workers I think this is not better; this is a failure; this has hurt people for a well-intended theory.

It would be interesting to hear what Cornwall Council thinks.

Added 25 November 2014
What is not known by the government monitoring scheme of the Penzance Remploy workers:

1 How many of the 25 tracked former Remploy workers have never been in employment since the closure of the factory in 2012 – Not known

2 How many of the 8 former workers on ESA are in the ESA work-related activity group and how many are in the ESA support group – Not known

3 Whether or not any of the disabled former workers on the work program have been sanctioned – Not known

I think the monitoring scheme is inadequate. I hope any mentoring scheme is very much better.

Added 29 November 2014
There was a short parliamentary debate on 26 November 2014 about former Remploy workers initiated by Ian Lucas (Labour MP for Wrexham). Lucas asked several unanswered questions that could be applied to Penzance Remploy workers too:

“Why have the Government failed to secure re-employment for so many former Remploy workers? What obligation is there on job agencies to accommodate the needs of disabled workers? What percentage of individuals placed in work by employment agencies are disabled? What proportion of former Remploy workers are employed on reduced-hours contracts? What proportion of former Remploy workers are being paid less than they were when they were employed by Remploy?” (Hansard 26 November 2014 column WH 271).

Added 6 January 2015
The written answer to a question by Pamela Nash MP revealed that 1507 Remploy people in the UK were made redundant in the last factory closures and 774 of them were currently in work: see Hansard 18 December 2014

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