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Back in Business

Seventeen disabled workers, made redundant following the closure of the Remploy factory at Fforestfach in Swansea, are back in business in their old unit.

Seven of them set up a co-operative, Accommodation Furniture Solutions (AFS), on the former Remploy site. They then won work to assemble kitchen units, on behalf of Richmond Kitchens for Tai Calon Community Housing and have employed other former colleagues.

Managing Director, Kevin Edwards, says, “We are up to seventeen and hope to continue to grow over the next two years. We all lost our jobs when Remploy closed, so to be back here in the same factory and expanding the business is fantastic.”

The company’s success has been helped by Richmond Kitchens, which was already manufacturing kitchen units for Tai Calon. As

Kevin Edwards explains, “The only way we were able to set up the business was because of Richmond Kitchens. They provide us with all of the materials we need to assemble the kitchens free of charge. We are then paid on the number of units that we assemble. This meant there was very little capital outlay for AFS at the start of the business”.

Staff and tenants of Tai Calon Community Housing, which is Blaenau Gwent’s largest social landlord, travelled to Swansea to see the kitchens being made and were impressed by what they saw.

Bill Pearch, Director of Assets and Property Services at Tai Calon, said: “We are delighted to be supporting AFS and to be playing a part in its plans to grow the business. We are also grateful to Richmond Kitchens for seeing the potential in the AFS workforce. It’s about doing a job well and making a difference for someone else.”

Tai Calon is spending £111 million by 2015 bringing all its 6,100 plus homes up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard. Much of the work involves replacing kitchens and bathrooms.

AFS worker putting together a kitchen unit

“The Tai Calon contract has been fantastic for us. It’s allowing us to produce high quality kitchens and has given everybody at AFS more work and an opportunity to show everyone what we can do. This empowers disabled people to showcase their talents”, said Kevin Edwards.

AFS currently assembles around 80-90 kitchens per week and also manufactures accommodation furniture for councils, housing associations, schools and colleges. It has recently won a contract to manufacture furniture for Swansea City and County Council.

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