SCIL says: “Good on you Maria Miller” – Minister for Disabled People gets it Right

Written by Ian Loynes – SCIL’s Chief Executive

This might not be a headline you would expect to see in an SCIL newsletter; but on this occasion SCIL welcomes Maria Miller’s decision to close most of Remploy’s factories, including the one in Southampton.

So, why is SCIL supportive of the Minister’s Decision?

Remploy, along with many other institutions, were set up to provide employment or care to wounded soldiers returning from wars. Over the years, these institutions evolved to the point where all that most Disabled People had to look forward to was to be passed from one institution to another, steadily becoming more excluded from society; becoming more and more dependent on a vast army of non-disabled staff and managers, all doing very well from the disempowerment that their work caused.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s Disabled People started to challenge these institutions, Disabled People like Paul Hunt (Who helped start the CIL Movement in the UK) stated that “Institutions were not solutions”. They said that Disabled People should live and work in the community; just like everyone else. SCIL was born from these basic principles.

Moving forward to 2012, Disabled People have shown that living and working in the community enables us to have quality lives, and contribute to society just as much as non-disabled people.

Remploy, and many similar institutions, however, have continued to provide disempowering, non-progressive, segregated employment to Disabled People. In the 21st Century, these places are now seen by many (including SCIL) as obsolete dinosaurs in the modern world where Disabled People demand to be employed in mainstream businesses.

The facts speak for themselves, Remploy’s factories employ just 2,000 Disabled People, almost all lose money and the ‘business’ as a whole lost £68 million last year (funded by the tax payer).

A report was recently written by Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK (which includes the National CIL) called “Disability employment support fit for the future”. This report called on the Government to do more to improve the Access to Work (ATW) scheme which helps Disabled People to work in the mainstream; and to end segregated employment, including Remploy. The report highlighted that Remploy cost vast sums of money and did very little to provide ‘real’ employment opportunities for Disabled People.

In fact, every Remploy place currently costs £25,000 a year, compared with £2,700 per person under the ATW scheme. The report calculated that for every £1 invested into ATW, £1.48 was returned to the economy.

Download this report from: www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/sayce-report.pdf

On the 6th March, the Minister for Disabled People accepted all the recommendations of the report, and agreed to channel all the money saved into ATW which will enable many more Disabled People to be employed in ‘proper’ jobs.

SCIL says: “Good on you Maria Miller”

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’

SCIL is saddened that those working in Remploy may end up out of work, but we do have to look at bigger picture. Keeping these people disempowered is just wasting their potential and wasting their lives; as well as perpetuating negative stereotypes about Disabled People.

So, a real victory for Disabled People, however, there are many more institutions left that still disempower us. Which stall we tackle next?

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