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What are Remploy workers doing now?

Geoffrey Wright
Image caption Geoffrey Wright has not worked for two years

"I was looking for a job and now I'm not. They take one look at you, you hand them your CV and they never call."

These are the words of Geoffrey Wright, who has learning disabilities and is one of around 2,000 workers who lost their jobs when the Remploy factories closed last year.

It has been two years since his Wigan factory shut and he has not worked since.

Set up in the 1940s, Remploy was seen as a new way of tackling the issues of disability and employment, with one aim, to give disabled miners and those injured in war, a job for life.

But nowadays, the idea of segregated employment seems an outdated concept to many.

Excluded

The government announced the Remploy factories were running at a loss, and their focus was to support disabled workers into mainstream employment.

But what is the likelihood of Geoffrey and the other unemployed former factory workers of finding jobs, when figures show that 30% fewer disabled people are in work?

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Media captionAs Nikki Fox reports, some former Remploy workers have struggled to find new jobs

Many still feel excluded from mainstream jobs.

They have told me that in a perfect world disabled and non-disabled would work together in harmony. But the world is not perfect and they believe there are still many barriers to overcome.

The government says that efforts are being made to close this gap and they are getting 150 people into work or training each day.

Specialist disability employment advisors (DEAs) are available in Jobcentres, although earlier this year, the government was criticised by the Work and Pensions Select Committee for a shortage of specialist advisors for disabled people.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says it has employed 300 more advisors with disability training, taking the total to 1,400.

Help to get a job also comes from a surprising source. Most, when they think of Remploy, think factories but they have been operating as a recruitment service for many years.

Image caption Tony Hammett now works in a pub

And since the last factory wound up, Remploy has developed into a specialist recruitment service that has managed to find 100,000 disabled people jobs in the past five years.

One of those is Tony Hammett. He has epilepsy and depression and, after a decade out of work, he thought he would never work again. But through Remploy he has found a job in a pub.

He says this has changed his life.

"I just gave up; I didn't think I was worth anything to anyone, that's how it made me feel.

"I just wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be normal, pay my way, be able to do things and live a normal life. But now I've got the dignity of knowing I'm earning. It's the best thing that's every happened to me, by a mile," he said.

Now there are calls for more specialist services like Remploy to appear on the market.

As of March next year, Remploy will have been sold by the government and be under new ownership. There is great hope that whoever takes over can continue Remploy's legacy of getting disabled people into work.


Remploy history

  • The Remploy factories were set up after World War Two to provide work for serviceman and civilians who were injured and disabled
  • For nearly 70 years the factories provided sheltered, paid work for thousands of people with disabilities - doing things like making radiation protection suits for the Army, wheelchairs for the NHS and furniture for schools
  • As recently as 2008, 83 of the original 92 factories were still in business
  • Remploy sold or closed its remaining factories in 2013

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