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David Brindle

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Many disabled people who lost their jobs when Remploy shut 29 factories in 2008 have not worked again. But does this mean that sheltered workplaces are the best option? Opinion is divided

After working at a Remploy sheltered factory for 15 years, Iain Muir now earns a market wage as a forklift driver at an East Kilbride warehouse. His profound deafness presents challenges, but nothing that cannot be overcome with support, understanding and a little sign language.

Muir, 50, is a full and valued member of staff at the Furnishing Service, a company supplying furniture and fittings to councils and housing associations across Britain. His experience shows that, given the opportunity, disabled people can cope perfectly well in “open” employment.

“I’m enjoying the job,” Muir says. “My new colleagues are fantastic – they’re really friendly and helpful, and lots of them are keen to learn to sign.”

Not all former Remploy workers are so fortunate. Many of those who lost their jobs when the government agency shut 29 factories in 2008 have not worked again. The bitter row over the closure programme rumbles on, polarising views about the future of sheltered or protected workplaces, and the viability of expecting disabled people to compete in the open labour market.

An attempt will tomorrow be made to find common ground in the argument. At a conference in London, disability umbrella organisation Radar will present a discussion paper seeking to achieve consensus around what disabled people want from employment, and which models of employment are most likely to achieve it.

The paper, funded by Remploy but drawn up after consultation with a broad range of interest groups, including trade union leaders opposed to sheltered factory closures, sets out 10 propositions endorsed by a panel of almost 40 disabled individuals chosen from Radar affiliates.

Read More …  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jul/21/disabled-people-open-jobs-market

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