A group of former factory workers, who lost their jobs as part of nationwide Remploy closures last year, are aiming to inspire the next generation of disabled workers.
After being made redundant from posts at Remploy sites in Leeds and Pontefract alongside around 80 others, a group of 12 former staff have opened up a new social enterprise to give hope to the disabled community.
Each member of the collective invested £5,000 of their redundancy pay to create the Enabled Works not-for-profit working co-operative, which was officially opened by Morley and Outwood MP Ed Balls.
The two-storey factory and office space in Howley Park Road, Morley, aims to employ 40 people on contracts including electrical assembly, warehousing and storage as Remploy did as well as offering training in areas such as ICT.
John Wormald, who was made redundant from Remploy’s Pontefract site after 26 years, was one of the former workers who formed the co-operative.
Now business development director at Enabled Works, John, who has cerebral palsy, said: “Bearing in mind that a lot of the staff had been with Remploy a long time they were not used to change and for some it was the only job they have ever had.
“There was a lot of uncertainty and hurt and from our point of view, but if we can put some positive vibe into proving this model can work it will inspire people and other businesses.”
Enabled Works recently had £1,500 worth of improvements made to its disabled access paid for by Leeds City Council’s Outer South Area Committee.
The brainchild of former workers Tina Brown and Tony Gledhill, it already provides work for around 20 staff and volunteers with differing disabilities.
Ed Balls MP said: “I’m delighted to have a new award winning co-operative factory, owned and run by the workers themselves, open in my constituency.
“I’ll continue to work with the team to make sure the Enabled Works co-operative gets the support they need to be a success.”
Last year 27 Remploy factories closed as a result of a controversial Government scheme to switch spending to help individuals find jobs rather than subsidising factories. Nine more factories are now facing closure.
The Government has set up an £8m package of employment support for those affected, featuring 200 case workers.
Visit www.enabledworks.co.uk for details.