The fate of Tayside and Fife’s closure-threatened Remploy factories could be known in a matter of weeks.
More than 100 disabled people working for the firm in Dundee, Leven and Cowdenbeath have feared for their future since the launch of a UK Government consultation which could result in the factories’ closure.
With 54 sites across the UK, Remploy is seen as a lifeline for hundreds of employees who say they would otherwise find it impossible to get work.
The consultation, due to end on Monday, follows recommendations made in the Sayce report that government support for segregated employment should be phased out in favour of helping disabled people find jobs in the general labour market.
The report said Remploy could be spun out of the public sector but pointed out none of the businesses were currently profitable.
With MPs due to begin examining the many hundreds of consultation responses next week, Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller said the aim was to look at how the money earmarked for helping disabled people into work could be used more effectively.
In her only interview with a Scottish newspaper, Ms Miller told The Courier supporting people in Remploy factories costs the Government £25,000 a head.
“We could be using that money more effectively and potentially getting 35,000 extra people into supported employment,” she said.
“We have protected the budget we have to support severely disabled people into employment and it’s really important we are helping as many people as we can.
“Half of all disabled people in the UK are not in employment, yet most want to be.
“It’s important people have the right support to be able to get into employment and stay in employment, whether it is people with a physical disability, a learning disability or a mental health problem.
“I want to make sure people working in Remploy factories are getting the right support that’s personal to them to get a job and stay in a job.”
Remploy also runs an employment support service which Ms Miller said had a good track record in Scotland of helping people with disabilities into mainstream work.
“We want to take time to ensure the many hundreds of replies we have had to the consultation are examined in detail but we also know it is important we respond to the consultation as soon as we are able,” she said.
“I was in Leven recently talking to the managers of the facility there and they are keen to know the thoughts on the way forward as soon as possible.
“We will be trying to do that in the coming weeks.”