Blind World Magazine

United Kingdom.
Disabled lose jobs as factory (Shelwork Industries) closes.

Salisbury Journal, Wiltshire (UK).
Thursday, March 16, 2006.

By Jill Harding.

VISUALLY impaired and disabled workers are to lose their jobs after Salisbury manufacturing company Shelwork Industries was dealt its final blow.

After weeks of uncertainty, the factory, which handles wool-winding as well as making wood products and engineering components, has lost out in a crucial bid to secure funding from Wiltshire county council, and will close at the end of the month.

The firm, which is run by the charity Action for Blind People, has more than 50 staff with sight problems, learning difficulties or physical disabilities.

Redundancy notices were issued before Christmas and last week employees lost their last glimmer of hope, when they were told their jobs would go when the Southampton Road factory shuts on March 31.

Brian Harty, director of services at Action for Blind People said: "We knew that we would have to tender to continue to provide supported employment services in south Wiltshire and we spent a long time preparing and fine tuning our bid.

"But it appears that other providers applied too, and we lost out.

"We have looked at ways of maintaining our service without the grant but it would not be possible, so we are left with no option but to close. We have had to contact our customers to let them know this sad news.

"They are very disappointed because they have been very supportive of what we do."

Action for Blind People has been involved with Shelwork Industries since 1993 and took over the running of the company in 2000. The factory has won a clutch of awards, including a south Wiltshire business prize for training excellence.

Many of the staff are now facing an uncertain future and fear they will struggle to find new jobs.

"It has obviously been devastating news for them we have some who have worked here for 20 years," said Mr Harty. "It was very sad news to tell them.

"But we have already been able to help three staff into employment and we will be continuing to work with the others for another three months and try to help as many as we can to find alternative jobs."

Ray Jones, director of adult and community services at Wiltshire county council, said it might be possible for the new provider of supported employment in south Wiltshire to help.

"I believe there will be discussions between Action for Blind People and the new provider we are talking to that is likely to get the contract," he said. "We had a legal obligation to put the contract out to tender it is worth 180,000 a year.

"I can confirm that Shelwork and Action for Blind People did not get it, but the county council is not abdicating its responsibility.

"We hope that the new provider, which will also be based in south Wiltshire, will be able to look at the skills and expertise of Shelwork staff."

End of article.

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