Transforming the lives of the ‘unemployables’

Manager Ithfaq Hussain.
Manager Ithfaq Hussain.
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Finding work when you have a disability can be a challenge but one organisation is leading the way with support for those deemed unfit for work. Alison Bellamy reports.

IMAGINE your partner was seriously injured in a car crash and unable to return to their normal job.

That they had physical injuries but had also lost their memory, confidence, skills - and their wage.

Many people would fall into despair about their future and fear they might never work again.

But one organisation is helping those who might deem themselves ‘unemployable’ get into work.

Survivors of road accidents along with people with special needs, long-term disabilities and mental health problems are being given a helping hand by Remploy.

Those being helped include former armed forces staff dealing with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Historically, the organisation is known for its manufacturing and packaging in factory conditions. People with disabilities were given jobs making everyday items, such as lightbulbs.

But the Leeds factory at Millshaw, south Leeds, along with dozens of others nationwide, closed last October.

Now the face of Remploy is changing, with government grants and backing to get individuals into work from more than 2,500 of the country’s biggest employers, including BT, Asda, Morrisons, Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s, the NHS and Marks and Spencer.

A lot of the training courses are about boosting confidence, says Ithfaq Hussain, the manager of Remploy Leeds, based at South Parade in Leeds city centre.

He says he would not give up on anybody who was keen to get into work: “We have some great success stories, where people’s lives have been changed. Many people suffer from a hidden disability which is not always visible or apparent, such as diabetes, epilepsy or mental health problems.

“Some people don’t speak about their chronic condition or how much they have to cope with and can feel ashamed. We will help get them work-ready and go through the basics, from having that first job interview, to training in health and safety, to learning certain skills needed for a particular job.

“Others may have had a successful career previously but due to stress, depression or anxiety, they have become unable to manage. We work with companies who may tweak the job description to meet individual needs, for example if a person needs extra breaks or to work different hours, or a later or earlier start time to suit them.

“It can take a lot of confidence to make that call, but once it is done, we are here to help.”

He said Remploy was one of 50 companies to sign up to the Government’s new Armed Forces Corporate Covenant which matches up veterans, many who have been injured in active combat, with suitable roles.

“Our Armed Forces and Veteran’s Service is there for ex-forces staff who want to work. It can be tough for people who find themselves living with a physical disability after being so active. We have links with all kinds of companies and can match people with suitable work. We know how tough it can be to get back into work, both for someone who has sustained a physical injury during conflict, and for someone who has post truamtic stress disorder.”

An open day was recently held at Remploy Leeds for ex-forces staff and for organisations who work with them offering support after leaving the forces. Amongst them was Ian Sawyer, a former RAF technician, who now works for Asda.
He lost a previous job because of his depression but now says his life and health are much improved after returning to work: “I’m now a commercial cleaner and really enjoy my job and love going to work. I look forward to going in. I would say to anyone to ‘make that call and you won’t look back.” 
Remploy factories were established in 1945 as part of the creation of the welfare state. They began after the Second World War to give employment to injured soldiers returning home from battle.

At one time the organisation ran 110 factories nationally but now almost all the factories are closed as a result of a Government scheme to switch spending to help individuals find jobs rather than subsidising factories, with the final few due for closure soon.

Now Remploy is driven by the fundamental belief that every disabled person can, with appropriate support and specialist advice, secure sustainable employment.
The government announced three years ago that “non-viable” Remploy factories should close, with money re-invested into other schemes to help disabled people find work. The cash is part of a £320m annual budget for disability employment.

It followed an independent review conducted by Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, into the way in which the government spends its disability employment budget.

Over the last four years Remploy has found 50,000 jobs in mainstream employment for people with a range of physical, sensory and mental disabilities and other disadvantages.

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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