Gareth Hopkins and Martyn O'Keefe
Six adults with learning disabilities who were offered employment by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council following the closure of Remploy factories have spoken of their delight at being able to help others in their new roles.
The Council offered seven people positions at its innovative Vision Products facility in Pontyclun, following the closure of Remploy factories, including the one in Porth.
Six of these new staff members still work at the unit, which delivers a range of services that help others, including the provision of specialised equipment for the disabled, living aides and even a range of PVCu windows and doors. As well as providing a high quality service to the public, Vision Products also offers exceptional work experience and employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities.
These include Gareth Hopkins, 55, of Merthyr, who was devastated when he was made redundant from his local Remploy factory after working there for 19 years, alongside his two brothers.
Gareth (pictured with his manager, Martyn O Keefe) said: “Me and my brothers worked at Remploy and we followed the factory through the ages, from engineering, to making baby gates and then double glazed windows.
“When I was told I was being made redundant at the age of 55, I was devastated, I thought that was it for me and that I was now on the scrap heap due to my age. I am over the moon to now be working for Vision Products and love my new role as a driver’s mate, helping Martyn and helping the community.”
Vision Products was one of four companies in South Wales to be commended and thanked by the Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister Jeff Cuthbert when he visited the area this week.
He spent the morning meeting workers and thanking their new employers who, between them, have created jobs for 29 former Remploy employees. The companies are; Espack Eurologistoca in Bridgend, Automaster of Brynsadler, Vision Products and Sigma 3 Kitchens of Pontyclun.
Cllr Mike Forey, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Minister to Vision Products, where he saw for himself the work that was going on and the assistance we were able to provide former Remploy employees.
“Of course, this is not just about providing employment for vulnerable residents, to ensure they maintain their independence, it is also about enhancing the fantastic service we provide to the public through Vision Products.”
In 2012 the UK Government revealed plans to close the Remploy factories across Wales. In response, the Welsh Government took action and launched the Employer Support Grant (ESG) scheme to offer financial support for employers looking to provide work to eligible disabled Remploy workers and for workers setting up their own businesses. The policy is supported with more than £2 million of funding. So far the support grant has helped find work for a total of 231 former Remploy workers across Wales.