One of the last surviving special factories for blind and
partially sighted people has announced it is to close.
Beacon Industries’ workshops in Wolverhampton will 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 fewer than 20
Workers at Beacon Industries are planning a meeting 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.
Fred Reid, chairperson of the charity’s education and employment
committee, said special factories played an important role in
training blind and partially sighted people.
“There are successful factories but many others are struggling
to survive,” he said.
“At the same time there is still a need for them because there
is a large number of people who can not work at a normal speed or
have a substantial impairment so cannot work in a mainstream
“These factories also enable people who have never been in work
or are returning to employment to progress and to receive training
in a real work environment.”