On Tuesday 17th September the City of Edinburgh Council looked at the Employability and Skills Disability review. This is the report that originally put at jeopardy the future of the Engine Shed and raised the prospect of competitive tendering of supported employment in the city. It has been updated and you can read it here
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland took a deputation along to put the case for the Engine Shed and the Real Jobs project. Sue McLernon explained what a difference the project had made to her daughter. Chris Johnstone, a trainee at the Engine Shed also was in the deputation. We made the points that while we have heard from Councillors and Council Staff over the summer that there had been no intention to shut the Engine Shed and the that the council wanted to work cooperatively over future developments, we were not sure that all the things that we have heard are reflected in the report.
Our deputation also spoke about how the Real Jobs Project service users had told us how they wanted to keep their service in place too. How they valued their choice but also how they had been turned down for Direct Payments when they applied.
Over 14,000 people signed petitions wanting to keep the Engine Shed, thousands emailing the council and hundreds visiting their councillors, none of these comments got into the report. You would have no idea that many people need other ways of getting support than the “place and train” model. Nor is the fact that despite its own strategy, the Scottish Government has just made its biggest investment in supported employment for ten years and it wasn’t in “place, train and support in ordinary jobs” but in the Project Search internship model.
We asked some questions that we hoped would be answered when the report was discussed.
1. How will the different agencies be involved in the discussion over the future of “third party” funding?
2. What discussions will there be over the future positioning of services such as the Engine Shed within a more appropriate Council department?
3. Many clients of these supported employment agencies receive support as part of an assessed care package and are entitled to ask for a Direct Payment to buy their choice of service, yet all of those who have asked have been turned away. Will the Council be reviewing this decision following the implementation of SDS Act?
4. How does the move to a single agency providing supported employment empower service users to exercise choice of employment service, choice of employment support and choice of employment model?
Mostly they were not answered. The following is a summary of the Councillors discussion.
The report was introduced by a council employee who really read out the main points. We’ll not repeat these here but he did make a couple of particular points.
“The council recognise there is a need to take account of transition for some services– that is why the council is attuned to the 3rd party review which should report in December. Then there will be time to give organisation to adapt. There should be roll over of grants for a year to allow organisation to get ready for change in the future. Going forward the council wants to strengthen service users in the design of future proposals and are open as to how that happens. “
Cllr Gavin Corbett – Nothing in report says that current agencies are not bad providers. Given that, there should be space to allow agencies to maintain their networks and contacts. What will you do to encourage partnerships?
Response - The whole review was collaborative. There was a lot of input into the report from providers and users. We pride ourselves in having a good relationship with providers and are alert to potential change. We recognise that – Allowed access to Just Enterprise –to help organisations develop – this is an existing 3rd party interface. We are looking forward to the new stage.
Cllr Gavin Corbett - The different models of supported employment are not exclusive. How have you looked at Hybrid models?
Response - The supported employment model is not fixed in time. It works on people needs. Its not the models that are important but the outcomes from this.
Cllr Steve Cardownie – Has the possible unintended consequences taken place?
Response - We don’t want to see organisations disappear. We have constant dialogue to help them keep trading. The problem with Intowork is with ESF funding. We have helped to support this type of problem in the past but we have limitations to what we can do.
Cllr Paul Edie – What do you mean by retained employment?
Response - When someone is in work, this is about help to keep people get jobs in work.
Cllr Paul Edie – I have been looking for work – it took me 6 months to get a job and I have a good CV. Shouldn’t it take longer to analyse the results so that we get a better view of how these organisations work rather than use such a narrow definition of just how many people got jobs.
Response - We don’t have good data as we have just started collecting this. It is just a snapshot.
Cllr Paul Edie – I really feel we need some more sensitive data than just counting how many people are getting jobs. These are people who struggle into work and it cannot just be “in job” figures. On another point what is the timetable? How are the services that are being currently provided being procured?
Response – A Consortium approach is important. We are looking at proposals coming forward to talk about how we can meet the needs of the different groups. In Edinburgh council we like to encourage consortiums. Whether and when we go to tender is very likely to depend on a number of circumstances that are hard to predict at this point. If pushed, we are thinking about going out to tender again in the middle of 2014. But the decision to tender and procure is part of the wider discussion about how the council procures its services.
Cllr Gordon Monro – do we have capacity to really grasp the scale of the problem and how we best focus on the scale of the problem.
We have been looking at best practice and we work closely with other parts of the council to promote employment of people with disabilities. We want to know how we link to the other parts of the polices that the council have to operate to such as Self Directed Support.
The report was not put to a vote but was approved subject to an amendment putting something in recommendation 5 about “roll over funding being subject to budget approval.”