One of last factories for visually impaired people set to close

One of the last surviving special factories for blind and
partially sighted people has announced it is to close,
writes David Brown.

Beacon Industries’ workshops in Wolverhampton are due to
close in September with the loss of 50 jobs.

The number of blind and partially sighted people employed in
special factories has fallen from 3,000 in 1970 to about 500.
Dozens of factories have closed, leaving less than 20

Workers at Beacon Industries were meeting this week to discuss a
rescue plan that could see them taking over ownership of the
factory with other social partners.

Arthur Sidley, chairperson of the Beacon Centre for the Blind,
which runs the workshops, said: “The charity’s trustees have
decided that they can no longer underpin the losses at the

“There are people who have been here for 30 years, and it would
be almost impossible for them to progress to local employment”.

The workshops, which specialise in packaging and light
engineering, have seen losses grow to £350,000 this year
following increased competition.

Employees claim that the situation worsened after the
workshops’ former senior managers left about two years ago
and set up a rival factory nearby providing similar services.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind has urged the
government to bring forward plans to develop special factories as a
supported employment service.

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