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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Westminster means testing plan could see disabled lose jobs

This news post is almost 6 years old

Tory government wants to scrap subsidies and bring in means testing

A key employment subsidy is to be axed – putting more than 600 disabled workers in Scotland out of work.

The UK government intends to scrap the Work Choice programme, which sees employers given £4,800 to create “protected places” for staff with disabilities.

Instead, according to a report in The Times newspaper, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will move to a system whereby people are means tested an interviewed.

If they qualify, they will get help with travel and equipment they can use to find employment.

However, there are real fears that the removal of the direct subsidy to employers will severely impact those 600 Scottish workers already on the Work Choice scheme – and it could have dire consequences for the businesses themselves.

The scheme provides a subsidy to companies where more than 50% are disabled, and many of the 17 companies in Scotland that qualify and participate rely on the protected places cash.

For example, Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries in Glasgow, the country’s biggest supported business, has 109 employees on Work Choice, receiving £500,000 every year.

Another company which could be affected is the Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, where all of its 36 staff – all former service personnel – are disabled.

It produces 5.3 million poppies every year, which are bought by the Poppy Fund, giving it a steady income stream.

But it would still miss the £115,000 a year subsidy from the protected places scheme, and it could make it harder to recruit disabled veterans.

Manager Charlie Pelling told The Times: “It is extraordinarily important. The factory is economically viable without the Work Choice money but what it would mean is that I would be less than enthusiastic in taking in less productive people – a more disabled workforce – in the future.”

The closure of the scheme – details of which, including timing, will be made available this summer – has revived memories of the closure of the 33 Remploy factories by the Tory-led coalition government, with the loss of 1,700 disabled persons’ jobs.

A UK government spokesperson said: We expect to confirm details of this new offer by the summer and we continue to have regular contact with our stakeholders across the sector, as well as the Scottish Government.”

The Scottish Government has called for clarity and a full explanation.

TFN has asked the DWP for comment.