Factory closure distress

A group of disabled people from Batley and Dewsbury are speaking to us about how they are feeling after the government announced plans to close the Remploy Ltd factory where they work. Nova Sheldrake, Steven Stead, Catherine Hodgson, Iqubal Umarji and Claire Fletcher by the Remploy sign. (d30031241)
A group of disabled people from Batley and Dewsbury are speaking to us about how they are feeling after the government announced plans to close the Remploy Ltd factory where they work. Nova Sheldrake, Steven Stead, Catherine Hodgson, Iqubal Umarji and Claire Fletcher by the Remploy sign. (d30031241)
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DISTRAUGHT staff fear a bleak future as government cuts threaten to close factories created for disabled workers.

The Leeds Remploy factory, based near the White Rose Shopping Centre, could be one of the 36 UK factories set to close due to a £68m funding cut.

The packaging and distribution factory, which employs 60 people, is currently in a 90-day consultation which began on March 19.

Following a government-commissioned review into disability employment, ministers have decided to focus funding on maximising employment support for disabled people instead of subsidising the specialist factories.

But for Remploy workers in North Kirklees, including Steven Stead and Iqbal Umarji of Dewsbury, Steven Whiteley of Heckmondwike, and Catherine Hodgson of Batley, the thought of losing their jobs and having to look for work with mainstream employers is overwhelming.

Nova Sheldrake, 39, of Linefield Road, Batley, doesn’t think she’ll be able to find work elsewhere.

She said: “I’m angry and upset, I’ve worked here for 20 years.

“All disabled people will be put on the scrap heap.”

Product controller Elaine Newell is concerned her employees would not receive the same support in mainstream employment.

She said: “It’s more than a job, here we help them with all aspects of their lives.

“We provide meaningful, worthwhile work and everybody is taken for who they are.

“A lot of them have suffered in past jobs where they have been bullied and targeted because they are different.”

The government will reduce the Remploy subsidy in the new financial year, cutting funds from factories that make ‘significant losses’ and restricting funds to those that have the potential to operate without a government subsidy.

Remploy is considering all measures to avoid redundancies and support packages will be offered to help staff find new employment.

Workers at the Leeds factory are keen to fight for their jobs and will attend a GMB rally in Sheffield on April 20.