Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Remploy - A step forward or a step back?

Sadly its far from  unusual these days to read a story about 1 700 being put out of work, but it is a little strange to be asking whether this is in fact a good thing, but so it is in the case of Remploy who employ a workforce comprising mainly of disabled people.

Remploy is in many ways an eerie crystalisation of the eclipsing of what academics refer to as a 'Fordist' welfare state; one characterised by one-size standardised services, overwhelmingly provided by state buracracies.  

In a 'post-fordist' welfare state services provided not by a bulky and buracratic state monolith, but by a range of providers usually in the private or voluntary sector and are tailored, personalised and customised to meet the needs of individuals who themselves take a much greater role in planning their support.

The Remploy model, of subsidised factories belongs therefore to a time which is passing and maybe we should be glad of this.

 On one hand it arguably serves to segregate disabled people from mainstream society into a box with limited horizons. Why shouldnt a disabled person have the right to career aspirations beyond whats on offer in a Remploy factory? Whatsmore if the reported 'average subsidy' of £25 000 a year is anything to go on then Remploy hardly seems to represent value for money. Certainly that amount could buy a lot of support for individuals and educate a lot of employers about the benefits of adopting more disability friendly practices.

Small wonder then that some sections of the disability movement seem to be welcoming the axe which looks set to fall, but at the same time is their are a number of issues.

The practical issues are will personalised support deliver better outcomes? Will it free individuals, or will it isolate and trap them either in unemployment, or in unsuitable, demeaning, or degrading employment.

The most crucial question however, is how do the 1 700 affected individuals feel about this? Have they been consulted and listened to in the debate about their future, or in the rush to create a brave new world of welfare are the same mistakes being made by those who critique the past for its failings in this respect.

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