We fully support the Remploy workers’ fight against closures—but this position is a controversial one.
Disabled People Against Cuts sees the segregation of disabled people as a form of oppression. This position is known as the “social model” of disability.
We could easily join the big charities and some disabled people’s organisations and support the closure of Remploy factories.
They see the factories as remnants of a paternalistic and institutionalised past that keep disabled people separate from other workers.
A report by Liz Sayce, chief executive of the charity Radar, recommended closing factories and investing in the Access to Work scheme instead. That is a great scheme—if you can access it.
But it’s not that simple. These days there are no jobs for anyone, let alone disabled people who face discrimination in the workplace.
In any case, the Office for Disability Issues last month told us not to expect any investment in Access to Work in the foreseeable future.
Remploy workers have opened our eyes to the reality of the struggle. An inclusive society isn’t built by throwing disabled people out of the workshops they have relied on for 30 years.
The record of previous Remploy closures makes this clear. Only 6 percent of the workers laid off in 2008 have found work.
The question of segregated employment is complex. Not all workers in the Remploy factories are disabled. And a lot of disabled people’s organisations themselves employ only disabled people.
If it was as simple as saying that segregated employment is outdated, wouldn’t people be calling for closure of these organisations too?
The government is using the Sayce report to justify the Remploy closures. They use our language and ideologies to justify their sinister, purposeful assault on disabled people.
This is a case of divide and rule. When the Coalition threatens to take disabled people back to the Victorian era, we need to be united in resisting them.