Employers are being given financial incentives to employ severely disabled young people under a three-year government scheme that promises payments of up to £2,275 for each worker on 30 hours or more hours a week.

The money will normally be available after the recruit has been in a job for at least six months although smaller companies will be able to claim £700 of the total after two months. Smaller payments will be available to those who take on workers doing 16 to 29 hours a week.

The programme for those “with more complex issues” was launched on Wednesday, the eve of further strikes by disabled workers protesting at the closure of government-owned Remploy factories. Half the 54 sites are to be shut by the end of the year while others face an uncertain future. More than 1,400 jobs are at risk under the closures.

The payments are far smaller than the £25,000 a year the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) says it spends subsidising each job at Remploy.

Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said: “Young disabled people tell me they want the same job opportunities as everyone else and in every sector of the economy … This will not only help (them) gain practical experience in the workplace, but also showcase their talents and give them the edge in a tough jobs market.”

The DWP says it is only making payments after six months to ensure young people are in sustainable employment. It says Remploy subsidies take up as fifth of the £320m a year budget for specialist employment services for disabled people and believes money is better spent in other ways including the £100m Access to Work scheme which provides workers with specially adapted equipment, support workers and interpreters. This will now be extended to those on work experience schemes.

Unions say that 1,700 disabled workers’ jobs are at risk under the Remploy closures, far more than the company’s figure.

Sally Kosky, a national officer for union Unite, said she welcomed any measures that would help young people into work, but Miller’s announcement came at a time of “absolute silence” from ministers on Remploy.

She attacked Iain Duncan Smith, Miller’s boss, saying he “may enjoy being the self-confessed quiet man of British politics – but he should be turning up the volume in support of these vulnerable workers, many with disabilities.

“The last strike was massively supported by the workforce, members of the public, trade unions and disability organisations – and we expect a similar strong turnout tomorrow. The government needs to hear the very loud call that there needs to be a radical change of policy over the future of the Remploy factories.”

Kosky added that Remploy closures would cut the 2,000 work experience places for disabled and able-bodied young people the organisation currently provide each year.

She said unions had long suggested changes in structure and systems within Remploy that would make it “more sustainable and less costly”, including reducing “top heavy” management costs. The £25,000-a-worker subsidy figure included such costs while able-bodied managers, who earned up to £60,000 a year, had been “disgracefully running factories down”.

Source: The Guardian