ONLY one in ten sacked disabled workers in the region have found jobs after government help, The Northern Echo can reveal.
Only 18 of the 168 staff who were made redundant when Remploy factories in the North-East and North Yorkshire were axed are in employment.
The figures – released to this paper – reveal that only three of the 41 former workers at the Remploy factory in Spennymoor, County Durham, have been helped into employment.
GMB branch secretary Ken Stubbs, who worked at the Spennymoor factory, said: “The figures do not surprise me at all. These are people who are independent and want to work. Many of them are doing training courses, but the pay is very little and they are not getting the jobs at the end of it. It is very hard to find work and so they have to claim benefits, because they have no other choice.
“It is very difficult and it really is affecting everyone.”
The statistics were revealed as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced a further ten likely closures yesterday, including the packaging factory in Sunderland, where 34 people work.
Ministers ignored Labour calls for the closure programme – of up to 36 bases across the country – to be put on hold, while the economic slump continues.
Liam Byrne, Labour’s work and pensions spokesman, said: “We say, loud and clear, that this round of closures must stop until there is a plan that works to get disabled workers back into jobs.”
Instead, the DWP hit back, pointing out the closures began under Labour and insisting it had dramatically stepped up the help on offer.
The £8m support package had helped 129 Remploy staff find work across the UK – 15 per cent of the total, excluding those retiring – but that did not include those who had secured jobs independently.
A DWP spokesman said: “The previous government started the closure of Remploy factories in 2008. They closed 29 factories, but had no systematic way of tracking what happened to the workers.
“We have put in place an £8m package of employment support for affected workers, including one-to-one case workers, and we are tracking the destinations of the ex-employees who are choosing to work with us to find another job.”
The job figures are similar at the other sites closed this year – Gateshead (none out of 13), Newcastle (six out of 56) and Ashington, Northumberland (one out of 26). Labour closed the Stockton, Hartlepool and York factories.
The recent closures were recommended by a review, led by the chief executive of Disability Rights UK, which said expensive, segregated employment should be phased out.
The factories required an average taxpayer subsidy of £25,000 for each worker, compared with £2,900 to support a disabled person in a mainstream job.
However, experts calculated that a disabled person in the UK is twice as likely to be unemployed as someone without a handicap.
Official figures show that, in June, there were 554,000 unemployed disabled people – a 10.7 per cent rise on the previous year.