Disabled workers will be ‘on the scrap heap’

Coun Kath Rolph

Coun Kath Rolph

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SCORES of disabled workers are set to end up “on the scrap heap” if proposals go ahead to shut down Remploy sites in Wearside, councillors heard.

The agency, which provides sustainable employment to workers with disabilities, employs 174 people in Sunderland.

Labour councillors set down a motion last night slating the proposals, and pledging the council’s support to Remploy workers affected by any closures.

Houghton councillor Kath Rolph (left), who has disabilities herself, said: “I’m a bit scrap heap-like myself, and I know how easy it is to slip into feeling that you are basically a burden on society when you get up in the morning, and you need to have someone help put your left sock on.

“I’m lucky because I have a job with a supportive employer. I got that job before I became disabled.

“Before my disabilities made themselves known my employer could see what skills I had and what I could bring to the organisation.”

It has a factory in Pallion making packaging for Marks and Spencer and a recruitment centre in John Street.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability rights charity Radar, has written a report recommending concentrating funding to individuals through the Access to Work programme claiming Remploy’s system of factories was expensive and unpopular.

The ideas have been taken on board by the Government.

But Councillor David Allan, the senior councillor responsible for health and wellbeing in Sunderland, slated the proposals and set down a motion calling on the council to support Remploy workers in Sunderland affected by any closures.

The Sandhill councillor, who has disabilities himself, attacked Conservative councillors, saying whenever their Government was in power it was always the most vulnerable who bore the brunt.

Labour councillors said Remploy was vital to people who could not find employment elsewhere, and many people with disabilities were already encouraged to access mainstream employment.

Former Tory leader Tony Morrissey said the proposals to close Remploy sites were not cost-cutting measures, but about using funding in a way that best helped people with disabilities access work.

Fulwell councillor George Howe pointed out that the Labour Government had closed 29 Remploy factories.