News round-up, week ending 9th March

Provided by ReadSpeaker

John Pring, who runs the Disability News Service, publishes his weekly news round-up of the happenings in the disability world the past week.

• Disabled people’s organisations have backed government plans to withdraw funding from the remaining sheltered, segregated factories run by Remploy, but have called for as many of them as possible to emerge as new user-led social enterprises.

• The government has announced that 36 of the remaining Remploy sheltered factories are to close by the end of 2012, with the loss of hundreds of disabled people’s jobs.

• The government has promised to increase funding and support for the Access to Work programme, which it says will help thousands more disabled people into mainstream jobs.

• The Office for Disability Issues has angered disabled activists after stating that its own disability advisers do not have to notify civil servants if they work for the company set to make millions from incapacity benefit reform.

• The government has been heavily defeated in the House of Lords over plans to remove legal aid for benefits appeals.

• Britain’s best-known Paralympian has suggested that more should be done to “educate” the country’s elite disabled athletes about some of the real-life challenges facing other disabled people.

• The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics are a “massive opportunity” to improve permanently the accessibility of the capital, according to Britain’s greatest Paralympian.

• Disabled people have explained why they travelled from across England to take part in a mass lobby of parliament calling for fundamental reform of the social care system.

• Local authorities, health bodies and police forces are frequently breaching the human rights of disabled people, according to a new report by the equality watchdog.

• The body that runs the House of Commons has pledged to improve access for disabled visitors to parliament.

• A project that adapts traditional English folk dances for wheelchair-users has been recognised by organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service.

Disability News Service (DNS) is run by John Pring, an experienced journalist who has been reporting on disability issues for more than 15 years.

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3 Responses to “News round-up, week ending 9th March”

  1. Alex
    15/03/2012 at 2:54 am #

    I sense a new form of disability discrimination coming on here which has lurked in the disability community for years. Disabled people versus other disabled people.

    Who gave Liz Sayce of Disability Rights Uk the power to speak for those disabled people who work in Remploy and decide their jobs should be terminated? Certainly not those who work there. It might be part of her ideological agenda that disabled people should be incorporated into the mainstream. As a broad objective that is obviously to be welcomed. However some disabled people are not up to competing on the open jobs market and feel comfortable in a sheltered environment with support. So why is their voice less valid than hers? Isn’t the fact that she is deciding what is “best” for one group of disabled people, just as dictatorial and disempowering as the years of non-disabled people deciding what is “best”.

    Realistically how many of these 1700 people will find jobs on the open market? What this has done is rob these people of their chance to feel they have dignity and worth and consign them to claiming Jobseekers, perhaps for the rest of their life.

    Don’t be taken in by the government’s claims about the access to work scheme. They have cut much of the funding for equipment that was previously funded such as adapteed desks, chairs and voice technolgy. Employers are unwilling to take on these costs.

    In an era of high unemployment, 70% of employers have said they would not even consider a disabled person or someone who has been long term sick.

    I find it highly patronising that one disabled person, claiming to be representative of disabled people, can so blatantly ignore the views of those disabled people concerned, in pursuit of an ideology we are nowhere near achieving. It is pure ideology of one group triumphing over another. Surely, groups claiming to “represent” disabled people should do just that and not override their own wishes. The devastation of those who have been happy and succesful working at Remploy should be warning enough.

    At least do a trial run and see how many WANT to get another job and if they are succesful in doing so? “Nothing about me, without me” has been betrayed here by a group of disabled activists who are proving to be just as judgmental of the disability of others, that we have experienced for decades from society as a whole.

  2. MARK WILSON
    15/03/2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Alex, that’s an incredibly powerful and welcome commentary on the Remploy announcement and frankly it’s the first time I’ve seen such a well expressed counter-view to the Sayce conclusions. It’s fascinating that one of the reasons the Condems are getting a relatively easy ride here is that it appears that some disabled “user led organisations” are waiting in the wings thinking they are going to be the main beneficiarys of the destruction of 1800 disabled people’s jobs. This because some ULO’s may feel they will get the money to use in personal budgets programme, like Right to Control or similar approaches. As such we have the government neatly playing one grouping of disabled people off against the other because it claims that so called “mainstream” employment is the only answer. Your point on AtW is spot on which is a shame because it’s a superb scheme run by dedicated people in DWP who are often wrongly criticised when it’s lack of resources that hinders the scheme.

    You are also right to highlight the simple fact that we have a long way to go before employers have the disability awareness, and I would argue, additional “disability confidence” that enables and empowers them to consider disabled jobseekers in an equal fashion in hugely competitive labour markets. Do not misunderstand this rant. Disabled ULO’s are in many places doing brilliant work to deliver massive progress for disabled people, but helping them fund individual budget developments should NOT be coming at the expense of Remploys workforce because the government picks this moment to save money. It should be that we are able to deliver a properly phased programme which yes reduces jobs in Remploy over time, and yes uses savings from this “model” shift to add to the reach of AtW and Disabled ULOs delivering effective personal employment / job seeking programmes. And in particular Right to Control deserves to be well funded and given a chance to work.

    The public are also being kidded by the sound byte style of this Remploy announcement, that it’s just common sense, after all, how can it be right to spend 20k on a Remploy worker when getting a disabled person into work need only cost £2500? It’s disgusting politics this and I cannot believe how disabled organisations seem to be lining up to support the destruction of hundreds of jobs with little more than a “sigh” and passing reference to the human impact. It’s because I suspect the mainstreaming bandwagon has no place for alternatives that feel, well, less “modern” and it is very reasonable to question why so many disabled people’s views ie those working in Remploy and their families, are afforded such little priority against the politics of “integration”. But how can I say that in one breath and yet say the “ideal” is mainstream employment? Because, and it’s quite simple really, there should be room for BOTH approaches until employers are willing and able to look beyond disability and just see a quality prospective employee. We are not there yet and this Remploy move, and yes the Sayce report, may well have its place, but using the greed ridden disasters of the finance sector and subsequent recession as an excuse for making this “either-or” isn’t right. How many of the hundreds who will be thrown out of work in those Remploy factories will have a job in a years time ? How many will have stopped paying tax and NI and be on heavyweight benefits ? The public pay and the individuals are left to rot and please do not think that the private sector in places like Manchester and Merseyside and London will immediately step up to provide jobs for Remploys redundant workforce. It’s just politics but this time disabled people and their organisations are rushing to support integration and mainstream employment at the expense of fellow disabled workers and just wringing their hands as if to say “it has to be done and it’s sad but these people must pay the price why we get our hands on the money and use it better”.

    £68m saved ? Why not leave it alone as a measured change takes place? But then you would need to find the £68m from elsewhere to boost AtW and those excellent disabled ULO’s. How about we stop sending India 1.3 billion it says it doesn’t need or even more radical, why not stop corporations and multi national companies from avoiding tax at a rate of 25 billion a year ? It matters how we fund efforts to help disabled people into work and yes the case for mainstream is sound enough. But trampling all over the lives of Remploy workers as we live through the worst recession for 40 years is neither the right way to achieve those goals and it’s certainly not the right time.

  3. Alex
    15/03/2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Thanks for the reply Mark.

    I believe that of the Remploy factories closed down under Labour, 90% of the workforce are Still unemployed. So the model already exists and has been proven not to work.
    I think you are right. Many of the charities supposed to be representing disabled people have colluded with the government to get lucrative contracts for the back to work schemes. They are also resposnible for refering any breaches to the DWP for sanctions.

    DWP figures released last month show that there were 10,130 benefit sanctions applied to claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) last year. That means several weeks loss of all benefits for any infringement such as being late or not turning up for a work focused interview at the Job centre – even if illness was the cause. Many charities are involved with the Work Programme. The sick and disabled will be referred to this once in the WRAG group of ESA and can be made to work indefinitely without pay.

    This is what will be awaiting the ex Remploy workers.

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