by Ray Fleming

It takes some believing but the UK coalition is closing 36 of the 54 Remploy government-subsidised factories that give productive and morale-building employment to disabled people. Apparently, this is not primarily a cost-cutting exercise. Defending the decision David Cameron said that it has been taken because “it is no longer desirable that disabled people work in isolation”. The Works and Pensions minister, Maria Millar, explained that the money saved will be used to improve the welfare and other official services that help disabled people to find jobs in the regular employment market.

Even if these two explanations are accepted -- and in fact neither seems watertight -- it has to be asked how the government can possibly introduce this new policy at a time of widespread unemployment among fully fit people.

Currently, 50 per cent of the disabled are unemployed compared to fewer than 10 per cent in the rest of the population. And the factories being closed are in Wales and Northern England where unemployment is highest; those not being closed will be put up for sale. The timing of the announcement could not have been worse, coming just one week after the government's Welfare Reform Bill, which cuts benefits for disabled people, became law. Mr Cameron thinks that the disabled don't want to work in isolation -- so he's giving them the chance to be unemployed in isolation?