A FORMER employee of Poole’s Remploy factory has spoken of the “devastating” effect its closure will have on its staff with disabilities.

The Alder Hills operation – which employs 18 people – is among 36 Remploy sites earmarked for closure out of 54 nationwide.

Shirley Dean, who had to retire from the Poole site last year despite wanting to keep working, said: “It’s absolutely devastating.

“I feel sorry for the people that are still there. They’re my friends and I feel sorry for the boss there. We were busy when I was there.

“They should be doing something to keep this place open.”

The government has said it will pump the money saved by the Remploy closures into supporting people with disabilities into mainstream work.

But Shirley said: “The people that are there, I think they’re not going to make it in the big, bad world.

“Some people can’t work on their own and need a bit of guiding, somebody that’s more patient.”

She said some people who were made redundant from the Alder Hills factory in 2007 were still out of work.

“I know one who’s working in a charity shop just to keep his dole money,” she added.

Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, whose constituency includes the Alder Hills site, told Parliament the government had come to a “difficult but, I believe, correct decision”.

He told the Daily Echo: “The announcement has been broadly welcomed by a number of disability charities and campaign bodies who see Remploy as a bit of a throwback to an era where the capacity of disabled people was perhaps not recognised the way it now is.

“This idea that the only contribution that disabled people can make is in a factory surrounded by other disabled people is a bit of an anachronism today.”

The government said it had earmarked the equivalent of £2,500 a head to support people with disabilities back into jobs. Mr Burns has sought assurances that the past experience of disabled people will be listened to.

He said he would like to visit the Alder Hill site to listen and offer reassurance.

Cllr Mike Brooke, Liberal Democrat opposition leader on Poole council, said: “I think the principle of disabled people having the opportunity to work in mainstream jobs is absolutely right.

“What I cannot accept is the closure of Remploy factories. Many people have worked there for a long time and it’s their only way of life.

“I think it’s quite a cruel decision.”

Mid-Dorset and North Poole MP Annette Brooke, whose seat included Alder Hills before boundary changes, said: “Whilst I want people with disabilities to work in mainstream employment, the people there have been in sheltered work for so long it’s really difficult to think they could possibly adapt to a new situation.”