DOZENS of disabled people in Gwent face losing their jobs after the UK government scrapped funding for its Remploy factories.

Workers at Remploy furniture factories in Cwmtillery and Croespenmaen found out yesterday their jobs are under threat, as a wave of compulsory redundancies are set to be made across the UK.

Cwmtillery employs 21 disabled people and there are 44 disabled people working in the Croespenmaen factory.

Father-of-four Ian Lloyd, 50, from Fleur-de-Lys, has worked at the Croespenmaen site for 30 years and is branch secretary for the GMB Union.

He described the news as heart-breaking: “It will be really hard for people to find another job. We had people crying here today. It breaks my heart. When I took the job, it was a job for life.”

Mr Lloyd, who is registered blind, said the factory was “chock-a-block” and has not been struggling for orders Cwmtillery employee and GMB union rep Mandy Webb, 46, from Blaina, said: “We’ve been battling for four years – it was breaking their hearts . I don’t think there’s any chance for people to get into work.”

Across Wales, Remploy employs 434 people, 408 of whom are disabled.

Of the seven other sites across Wales – Aberdare, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Porth, Swansea and Wrexham – only Neath and Porth will be saved.

The seven set to close, following a 90-day consultation, employ 281 people, including 272 disabled people. The proposed factory closures have been made on the basis they are not considered viable.

The Westminster government said it costs £25,000 a year to support each disabled employee working in a Remploy factory compared to the £2,900 average Access to Work award to support a disabled person in mainstream employment.

The £320million budget for disability employment services, used to help disabled people into work, would now be spent in different, and, Westminster says, “moreeffective” ways.

Westminster said a fifth of the budget is currently spent on supporting disabled people in Remploy factories, which lost £68.3million last year.

All disabled Remploy staff affected by the changes will be guaranteed a share in an £8million package of support for up 18 months after the proposed closures.

Decision is despicable, say politicians

ISLWYN MP Chris Evans said: “This is a despicable act from the Tory-led government and they have shown their utter contempt for the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Unemployment is going through the roof, back-towork schemes are struggling to cope with spiralling unemployment and the government has responded by sacking disabled workers – they should be ashamed of themselves.”

AM for South Wales East Lindsay Whittle said: “I’m absolutely furious about this announcement. This Tory-led government has proved itself no better than the Thatcher government of the 1980s, which devastated large areas of Wales.

“This callous decision means disabled workers in some of the most deprived areas will have to find alternative employment with little financial support in a very difficult employment situation.”

Minister for education and skill Leighton Andrews said: “The Welsh Government is profoundly disappointed with the decision by the UK government to reduce its current subsidy to Remploy, resulting in the closure of Remploy factories.

“This has wide-reaching implications not only for the lives of individuals, but also for families and communities across Wales.”