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Protest over Remploy closure plans

Demonstrations will be held to protest against the planned closure of factories employing disabled workers.

Hundreds of disabled workers from the Remploy factories will take part in the protests in London and Sheffield, targeting the offices of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Unions have attacked the announced closure of 36 of the 54 Remploy sites this summer, saying more than 1,700 staff faced compulsory redundancy, including 1,500 disabled employees.

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: "Our members feel outrage that the Government could take jobs from disabled people in this current climate. How are they expected to find work when there are 2.6 million people in the queue in front of them?

"The Government say that disabled people should be in mainstream employment, but the jobs just aren't there for them, and very often when disabled workers are in mainstream employment they suffer excessive levels of bullying and harassment."

Phil Davies, national officer of the GMB, said: "We must show the strength of feeling that taking jobs from disabled people should not be tolerated in a civilised society. It will not improve the country's financial situation - it may well make it worse."

The closure decision followed a review into the future of Remploy, which concluded that money would be better spent helping disabled people find work in mainstream employment.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We have been absolutely clear that the £320 million budget for specialist disability employment services has been protected. But by spending the money more effectively, we can support thousands more disabled people in work.

"That is why we have accepted the recommendation from the Sayce review, to focus support on individuals through services like Access to Work, rather than institutions like Remploy, so more disabled people can work in mainstream employment rather than segregated factories."

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: "The closure of the Remploy factories will be devastating for those people currently working there and every effort has to be made to help them find new employment."

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