I ain’t surprised that only 35/1000 ex-Remploy workers have found new jobs, despite the 18 months of ‘individualised support’ offered to them by Maz Miller. I can’t imagine the impact on those 965 unemployed people (and, as importantly, their families). Of losing that structure, social dimension, coherence, and wage. I dread to think how it will affect their sense of self worth, isolation and health. Especially with alternative employment looking an impossibility. Anyone who talks about ‘benefit scroungers’ is talking crap. Apart from a small minority, work is a central focus of human/social life. End of.
I don’t support (or celebrate) the idea of segregated employment at all. I support the right for people to work, regardless of their ability, and this work should be mainstream (whatever that means). But I know that’s an idealistic and, in the current UK economic environment, totally unrealistic position.
Closing the Remploy factories was a financially driven decision. While throwaway and meaningless statements about decreasing segregation were made, it was about saving money. We are no nearer to an ‘inclusive society’ than landing on the moon, finding out what ’causes’ autism, or whether there is life on Mars. Shedloads of money are thrown at the latter two but very little is invested in workable solutions to increase and support learning disabled people in mainstream work.
Until people (learning disabled people, carers/family members, general public, policy makers, practitioners, government ministers) start to talk openly and realistically about the issues involved, nothing will change. It reminds me of my early research looking at the experiences of mothers, learning disabled children and going out in public places. I found there were limits to the tolerance you could expect from other people. The bar is commonly set way too high (for prissy reasons) but, even when lowered, some things ain’t gonna be acceptable. Until we engage with these (sometimes awkward, uncomfortable?) issues, and have some open, creative and realistic thinking about what can work and how, why force (longterm) unemployment on hundreds of Remploy workers?