Government cuts look set to leave hundreds of disabled workers jobless, after one of the largest employers of disabled people in the UK announced its plans to close 36 of its factories.

Following plans to cut funding to the government-owned company, Remploy has decided to close a number of its sites, meaning that 1,752 disabled employees could potentially be forced into redundancy.

Founded in 1945 as part of the welfare state, Remploy aims to promote diversity and inclusion by providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Ministers have said that the factories are too expensive to keep open with the cost of each employment place standing at £25,000 a year according to the Sayce Review, which recommended the shift away from subsidising factory businesses.

Minister for disabled people Maria Miller said that the budget for disability employment had been protected and that it would be spent more effectively to benefit a greater number of disabled people.

However, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has called the move “barbaric” and said that Unite is determined to fight the decision.

He continued: “To choose to cut these jobs only a few days after the government passed the welfare bill is proof it has no intention of helping the most vulnerable in society, instead the coalition is only making life worse.”

But other industry figures have suggested that the government’s focus should be on creating an inclusive workplace for people with disabilities rather than subsidising “segregated employment”.

Susan Scott-Parker, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability, has welcomed the government’s move towards funding for individuals.

She told People Management: “The changes in Remploy’s focus and funding also announced today reflect the needs of our labour market and the preferences of disabled people generally who have made it clear over the years that they wish to work in the mainstream of our society.”