On the continuing theme of employment opportunities for disabled people and diversity in employment I would like to draw your attention to a statement made in July last year in the House of Commons by Maria Miller MP – Minister for Disabled People.
She opens the statement with the following “I would like to make a statement on Remploy…Remploy employees must be first and foremost in our minds today.” The statement is about the ‘Future of specialist disability employment’ and relates to an independent review of the previous year.
The review was carried out by Liz Sayce OBE, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK. A very well respected person in this field and someone I have the utmost respect for. Liz has campaigned tirelessly for disability equality over many years so obviously knows her stuff and is in a great position to comment on disability issues.
The Sayce review states a number of very important points below:
“..money should support individual disabled people not segregated institutions…”
“It cannot be right that the government continues to subsidise segregated employment which can lead to the isolation of disabled people…”
“..This is no alternative to promoting and supporting disabled people in mainstream jobs…”
I do not and I cannot believe that anyone who believes in the benefits of diversity in business and equal rights for disabled people would argue with the above points. In fact if we are to create diversity in employment then this is the only way forward.
Maria Miller also says in the statement that the government is committed to disability equality and helping disabled people live an independent life. There is also apparently, a safeguarded budget to enable disabled people to find work.
However, let us look at the facts of the matter. Since the government decided to pull out of supporting Remploy and consigned almost 2000 disabled people to the scrapheap. The reality is, at best 1 in 5 disabled people have found work. Surely, in anyone’s book this ‘flies in the face’ of the statement made last July which continues “…Remploy workers who are affected will receive a comprehensive package of support and guidance to make the transition from Government-funded sheltered employment into mainstream jobs.”
What I believe has in fact happened is that disabled people formerly employed by Remploy have been let down by a lack of resources being put in to help them gain employment. There have been many media reports recently stating “.. employees of Work Programme, sub-contractors being told to spend as little time as possible trying to find work for their disabled clients , because they are too difficult to place.” (Disability News Service, 2012).
Therefore it is up to the current Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey to invest in proper support programmes which have the expertise to empower disabled people to find work. Failure to do so will mean that disabled people, previously in meaningful employment will be consigned to a lifetime of benefits.
An extremely worrying prospect indeed, as with the suggested welfare reforms I fear it will mean a lifetime of poverty and despair for disabled people.