Hello once again! When will the revelations concerning News International, the Murdochs, the police and the Prime Minister end!! It makes for great copy and the non-written media must be loving every minute. Unfortunately all the coverage means that other important more important issues are being relegated to the second division. The famine in Africa being one such!
Government response to Sayce review: Unions declare war over Remploy
Furious trade unions have “declared war” on the coalition, after it backed proposals that could see most of Remploy’s remaining sheltered factories closed down, and an end to the company’s government funding.
In its response to last month’s review of employment support for disabled people, the government said it was “minded to accept” the recommendations on Remploy.
It will now consult on these and other proposals in the review, which was carried out by RADAR chief executive Liz Sayce.
She recommended an end to government ownership and funding for Remploy, and the closure of factories which were “not viable”.
But she said others could be taken over by disabled workers and become social enterprises, co-operatives, or “mutuals” owned by their employees, with the help of short-term, “tapering”, government subsidies.
But Les Woodward, Remploy convenor for the GMB union, said Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, had “made it perfectly clear” in a meeting this week that the government would provide no such subsidies to help workers take over factories.
He said: “There is absolutely no funding for Remploy factories. That is the way it came across to us.
“They want to ditch Remploy and they want to ditch it like a hot potato and do it as fast as possible.”
He said the only way Remploy workers would be able to take over any of the factories would be if “a huge wodge of money” was made available to help start the new businesses.
He added: “The trade union consortium will fight any closures by any which way possible. They have declared war on us and we will declare war and fight back with any weapons that we have got in our armoury.”
When asked what those weapons might be, Woodward said: “Did Churchill put in the papers what the plans were for D-Day? No, he didn’t.”
The government spends about £25,000 to subsidise each of the 2,800 disabled factory staff still working in the remaining 54 sheltered Remploy factories, although 544 of those workers have applied for voluntary redundancy.
Sayce said last month that there was “total consensus” among disabled people’s organisations that segregated employment, such as that offered by the Remploy factories, was “not a model for the 21st century”.
Phil Davies, national secretary for Remploy for the GMB union, said there were “no prospects” that any of the factories would stay open without government funding, and that the union would “staunchly defend these jobs and the communities they are in”.
He added: “The current employment in the 54 factories are real jobs making products for mainline companies like Jaguar Rover, and supplying goods to the armed forces.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman insisted that, despite Woodward’s report of the meeting with the minister, “no decisions have been made on Remploy factories – that is one of the issues we are consulting about”.
The closing date for the consultation is 17 October.
Government response to Sayce review: New concerns over Access to Work funding
A half-hearted response to its own review of employment support has raised concerns that the government is set to reject proposals to boost a vital programme that supports disabled people in the workplace.
When Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, published her review for the government last month, she focused strongly on the need to expand and improve the Access to Work (ATW) scheme.
But when the government published its response to her review this week, it failed to state whether it accepted the ATW recommendations.
Instead, the government response makes several references to concerns that Sayce’s ATW recommendations could put “additional pressure on funding at a time when resources are limited”.
Sayce’s report recommends that the number of disabled people receiving ATW should double, so that the scheme changes from being the “government’s best-kept secret” into a “well-recognised passport to successful employment”.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman told Disability News Service: “Sayce recommends that if we spend the money differently we can support an extra 35,000 disabled people into work.
“However, no decisions have been made. [Maria Miller, minister for disabled people] rightly points out that if implemented in full, the Sayce recommendations would have a significant impact on how support is delivered.
“That is why before taking decisions in these areas, we are seeking views through a public consultation.”
Marije Davidson, RADAR’s public affairs manager, said Sayce had made “a strong case” in her report that investing in ATW made “economic sense”, and had suggested how it “can be used better so that less money is wasted in the system and more goes directly to support for disabled people”.
She said: “We would be extremely concerned if the government ignored the evidence that Access to Work is a highly cost-effective way of supporting disabled people in work.”
There have been increasing concerns in recent months over reports of disabled people facing tighter eligibility criteria when trying to claim ATW, along with union fears that the scheme is under serious threat due to government spending cuts.
Government statistics show that the number of “new customers” granted ATW funding fell sharply in the first three quarters of 2010-11.
The closing date for the consultation is 17 October.
Government’s equality plans ‘are pathetic’
The government is set to resist fierce opposition and force through proposals that will weaken the steps public bodies must take to help them promote equality.
Campaigners, opposition MPs and the equality watchdog have all warned that the decision will lead to a rise in court cases taken by disabled people and other disadvantaged groups over the decisions of local authorities and other public bodies.
But the government says it wants to avoid “burdening public authorities with unnecessary bureaucratic processes” by removing some of the “specific duties” they have to meet to comply with the Equality Act’s single equality duty.
The equality duty says that public bodies – ranging from primary schools to government departments – must have “due regard” to eliminating discrimination faced by disabled people and other groups, as well as advancing equality of opportunity, and promoting good relations.
But those in England will now have just two “specific duties”: to set a minimum of one equality objective every four years – across disability and the other five equality strands – and to publish information every year on how they are complying with the equality duty.
Inclusion London criticised the “minimalist nature” of the specific duties, and compared them to previous duties under the Disability Discrimination Act which were “precise tools to drive change and help authorities to understand how they may be discriminating and how proactively to employ people, deliver services and do work in ways that were likely to produce more equal outcomes”.
The specific duties are contained in new regulations finally approved by MPs this week – already more than three months after the single equality duty came into force – but will not now be debated in the Lords until after the summer recess.
In a debate on the regulations, Labour’s shadow equalities minister Fiona Mactaggart said the requirement for a public body to publish just one equality objective every four years was “pretty pathetic” and would mean a “miracle worker” would be needed to fulfil the equality duty.
She said: “We have ended up with a muddle. Local authorities and public bodies are not sure what is necessary and what makes a difference.”
She added: “The government are doing the least that they believe they can get away with, and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
But Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, said the regulations achieve “an appropriate balance between greater flexibility and reduced bureaucracy and will make public bodies accountable to the public who use their services rather than to Whitehall”.
Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said after the debate that the specific duties should have been designed to help councils and other public bodies avoid legal action, but the regulations would instead see more court cases and public bodies taking fewer “proactive” steps towards equality.
But Kane insisted that disabled people would still be able to use the equality duty to hold public bodies to account and uphold their “rights and equality”.
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) had intended the regulations to come into force before the summer recess. A GEO spokeswoman was unable to explain the reason for the delay.
Kane said the delays around key elements of the Equality Act showed “a complete lack of leadership from this government on equality and shows that it just isn’t a priority”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission declined to comment on any of the issues around the specific duties.
Careers education ‘is failing many disabled students’
Careers education is failing many young disabled people, and other disadvantaged groups, according to a new report from the equality watchdog.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reportsays careers education and guidance often fails to meet students’ needs or challenge traditional “stereotypical thinking”.
The report – which focuses on England, Scotland and Wales – reveals that nearly a quarter of disabled young people say they have not had enough information to make the right choices for their future.
Research suggests that disabled young people are not receiving the careers advice they believe they need to move into employment and adult life, with many left feeling “discouraged” and “disappointed”, says the report.
Other research suggests that careers advice is “insufficiently targeted” at the needs of disabled young people, which are “not well understood”.
The report says all careers education should raise aspirations and address equality issues, and should begin in primary school, while the education sector should work more closely with parents and businesses.
It also calls for young disabled people to be involved in the development of careers services.
RADAR, the disability rights charity, said it was “concerned” by the report’s findings, which “confirm what disabled people have been telling us”.
Disabled 17-year-olds in England are more than twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training as non-disabled young people the same age (17 per cent compared with seven per cent).
RADAR said action was needed to “break down barriers to young disabled people realising their full potential”, through inclusive education, role models, work experience and flexible support.
Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said: “This report gives hard evidence that positive outcomes of careers education and guidance largely pass young disabled people by.
“Disabled young people are still hemmed in by stereotypes of what they can and cannot do. It is imperative that careers advice and guidance breaks out of the stereotypes and encourages disabled people to aim high.”
News provided by John Pring atwww.disabilitynewsservice.com