Calls to address disabled workers funding

Fergus Ewing MSP said the uncertainty over the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Work Choice funding is an 'ongoing challenge'. Picture: TSPL
Fergus Ewing MSP said the uncertainty over the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Work Choice funding is an 'ongoing challenge'. Picture: TSPL
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THE ENTERPRISE minister is calling on the UK Government to address the future of funding for businesses employing disabled workers.

Fergus Ewing MSP said the uncertainty over the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Work Choice funding is an “ongoing challenge”.

The Scottish Government said it has supported businesses employing predominately disabled workers over the past two years by launching a new national framework agreement for supported businesses and setting up a supported business directory, as well as investing £2 million in a new supported business enterprise.

Currently supported businesses, which are companies where at least 50% of the workforce is made up of disabled employees, also receive £2.9 million of income annually through DWP’s Work Choice programme.

However, funding for the programme is soon to be reviewed, the Scottish Government said.

The political row over Lord Freud’s comments has only drawn attention to the valuable contribution disabled people can make in the workplace, writes Dani Garavelli

Mr Ewing said: “Scotland’s supported businesses play an important role in helping disabled people find sustained and fulfilling work opportunities, and often act as a stepping stone towards mainstream employment. Helping these businesses expand in a way that is commercially viable is crucial to both the employees and the Scottish economy.

“The uncertainty regarding DWP’s Work Choice funding is an ongoing challenge and I have written to DWP urging them to discuss the future of financial support given to supported businesses through Work Choice.”

The Scottish Government will hold a debate on building a stronger future for supported business today.

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud is to remain in his job after issuing a “full and unreserved apology” for suggesting that some disabled people are “not worth” the minimum wage, Downing Street has indicated.

Mr Ewing said: “Since April 2012 we have been working very hard to mitigate the effects of the UK Government’s closure of Remploy factories in Scotland.

“Earlier this year we invested £2 million along with Falkirk Council, in Haven PTS, a new company formed following the sale of Remploy. Haven PTS has recently secured a three-year contract to supply the Scottish NHS with nurses’ uniforms, worth up to £1.5 million per year.

“Over the past two years we have also launched a new national framework agreement for supported businesses and set up a supported business directory.

“However, more needs to be done. The best supported businesses operate on a commercial basis, producing high quality goods which meet market demand, while offering a supportive environment for their staff. Uncertainty around DWP funding could put the future of these enterprises into jeopardy.”