Remploy Statement

Disability Rights UK believes change is needed in Remploy and that employees should be vigorously supported in the transition (see below).

The disability movement has argued for many years for opportunities for inclusive employment, with the adjustments and support we need to work in any kind of job, on equal terms with non-disabled colleagues.  Organisations led by disabled people – like Breakthrough UK and Southampton Centre for Independent Living (SCIL) – have written eloquently of why the Remploy factory model is not the best future model[1].

Phil Friend, Vice Chair of Disability Rights UK, said:

‘Organisations led by disabled people have campaigned long and hard for employment support on our own terms, so we can work in every type of job and every part of the economy. That is the right model for the future. Disabled people are tired of being painted in the headlines as ‘scroungers’ and just ask for the individual support we need to have a fair opportunity to work alongside everyone else. While the Remploy factory model was right for the 1940s but unsustainable today, it is crucial that Remploy employees have the right support – intensive where needed – to secure their financial security and move into open employment or social enterprise’.

Our thinking on Remploy factories is informed by the following points:

  • The specialist disability employment budget of £320 million is thankfully protected from cuts. But it should offer support to as many disabled people as possible, especially those facing the greatest barriers to employment. It should be used equitably for women and men, people from different minority ethnic communities and different impairments;
  • Over a third of the budget goes to Remploy. Half of this supports people into open employment (around 20,000 people a year); the other half to subsidise the factories (around 2,500 people a year);
  • Remploy factory employees are over 70% male. Whilst they face real barriers to employment, there is no evidence that they are a group facing the greatest barriers, requiring especially intense support. For example, 6% have a mental health condition (a group with a particularly low employment rate); this compares to nearly a quarter of people supported by Employment Services into open employment.
  • It costs approximately £25,000 to subsidise each Remploy factory worker. This money could support up to 8 disabled people through Access to Work. It is extremely difficult to justify the £25,000 subsidy when so many other disabled people are unemployed and when people are finding it increasingly difficult to get access to work or are having their access to work reduced;
  • The original idea of the factories was that people would gain work experience and move into mainstream employment. This has generally not happened. Many employees have been there for 20 or 30 years. They were placed there at a time when we had no anti-discrimination law, little experience of employers in making adjustments at work and very different attitudes;
  • We are not saying Remploy employees should lose work.  It needs unions and management to work together, with employers.  We would like employers to give Remploy workers first chance at vacancies, a guaranteed interview, so they can get the job if they have the skills for it. Taking to the streets to oppose closure is one approach, but it does not represent the only strategy to protect jobs. We also want excellent support agreed by unions, management and government
  • Trade unions have done – and do – wonderful work on equality. But historically there have been examples, like this one, of tension between trade unions and equality champions. For example the male union car workers who did not support women car workers in the 1960s when they struck for equal pay because they wanted to maintain their differentials.  We have to think about what is in the interests of disabled people as a whole now and in future. Demanding the factories earmarked for closure remain open denies disabled people mainstream employment now and for the foreseeable future with no new money entering the Government’s support package;   
  • The Remploy model has stood in the way of disabled people getting employment because it has encouraged an attitude from other employers that disabled people can only be employed in specialist provision.  Many disabled people know from personal experience when applying for jobs that this is the attitude they have encountered;
  • It would be wrong to use the fact of a government cutting vital services and benefits, to argue to maintain a system that is about segregation not rights (especially as this particular budget is protected – this is not about cuts);
  • Social and political progress is possible no matter which political party is in power.  During times of Conservative administrations we have seen the introduction of direct payments, anti-discrimination legislation, the first funding of national mental health survivor organisations and in a wider equality context, the end to racist rule in Zimbabwe.  These changes come because forces in society are demanding that it is time – and so it is with the demand to end segregated employment of disabled people.

Disability Rights UK wants vigorous action to support Remploy employees to have employment – and community and family support. We work with trade unions on major issues from benefits, to social care to human rights. But we cannot agree that saving non-viable factories is the right approach – as though disabled people can only work in separate, non-profitable enterprises. We must think about the young disabled people who are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) than other young people – and that 300,000 people each year leave work because of a health condition or disability. The primary emergencies we face are the appalling level of disabled youth unemployment – and the loss of jobs when people have an accident, or develop an impairment or health condition. We must expand Access to Work to support large numbers of disabled people to keep, and secure, employment. 

[1] For the Breakthrough piece please see: and for the SCIL piece please see: