Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
In March 2012, the UK Government announced its intention to close the majority of Remploy factory sites across the UK, among them seven out of nine sites in Wales. They subsequently announced their decision to close five of the Welsh factories in July, followed by further announcements on the closure of the remaining two factories in September and November respectively.
Welsh Ministers have opposed any factory closures throughout this process. We do not believe that closing the factories will improve the lives of disabled people. While mainstream employment should be the aim for most, we believe there is a place for supported and sheltered employment, skills development and other public service provisions to take into account the wide range of disabilities people are living with.
I sought to alleviate the impact of these closures by introducing, in July, a programme of support to help displaced Remploy workers in Wales to find alternative, suitable employment. The ‘Employer Support Grant’ was made available to employers in the private, public and third sectors who could offer suitable, sustainable employment to those disabled ex-Remploy workers who found themselves victims of these UK Government cuts. The Grant provides a package of tapered, financial support for up to four years of employment and includes a stringent matching process involving Disability Advisors from the Department of Work and Pensions and Remploy Employment Services.
In light of the most recent announcement of the UK Government’s intention to close the Remploy Factory in Bridgend, I am announcing today my commitment to extend the deadline for applications to the Employer Support Grant scheme until the end of March 2013. This will ensure that affected workers, both in Bridgend and those at the other six sites, continue to be offered full support from this Welsh Government programme.
The programme has already proven to be successful, with a total of 97 job opportunities created to date and involving 26 employers from a range of sectors. 20 employees have already started work, with several more due to commence their new employment shortly and many more in the process of being matched into opportunities.
My officials have worked in association with Social Firms Wales, Wales Co-op, Local Authorities, Welsh Health Boards, Job Centre Plus and local Remploy Management in identifying employers and business opportunities to create new employment for redundant disabled Remploy workers and they are working closely in conjunction with local Job Centre Plus teams to ensure a seamless recruitment process.
The Employer Support Grant scheme is therefore actively demonstrating the Welsh Government’s commitment to providing fulfilling and accessible employment to people of all skills and abilities and we remain dedicated to ensuring that we find suitable employment for as many of the redundant disabled Remploy workers as possible.