Highlight any text and click to have it read aloud
Edinburgh’s Engine Shed is now in the process of closing and will wind up over the next 3 months. The closure of this service raises a number of issues that are of interest to policies.
- 1. Lack of long term funding for supported employment
- 2. Policy rush to accommodate new ideas
- 3. Cherry picking of those most able to achieve employment
- 4. “Give back” funding to win contracts
- 5. Lack of choice of personalised suport
The Engine Shed in Edinburgh provided organic bread, tofu and other food stuffs, ran a popular café and well used conference facilities. But it’s main job was to provide training opportunities for 30 young people with learning disabilities, autism and other special needs. Over a three year placement these young people had plenty of time to get ready for the world of work.
The Engine Shed has an impressive record of helping young people move into paid employment. They raised over half the running costs themselves. Edinburgh Council backed its operations with an essential grant to pay for the staff that provided the training. But the value of this grant had fallen over time. The Engine Shed was getting less money in 2013 than they did in 2003. Many other organisations have the same problems as local authority funding is squeezed.
In 2013 the council announced a new plan. Instead of just funding the six Edinburgh organisations which helped people with disabilities get job, a competitive tender would see a single service start in April 2015. This would be based on a ‘supported employment ‘model i.e. where individuals are placed in work and then given support. The council would move its support away from training opportunities.
Although this will be suitable for some people, it definitely won’t be appropriate for all the clients the Engine Shed support as they require much more help to even get to the point where employment becomes even worth considering.
At the time many people thought this was short-sighted and did not take into account the differing needs of young people with special needs. Supported employment works well for many but not all. So thousands signed petitions, wrote to councillors and were able to win a year’s reprieve for the service.
But over the last 12 months, despite the fine words and intentions of some councillors, the policy of the council didn’t change. It continued to pursue the single approach to helping people into work and all the special employment services were put out to competitive tender in May. Payment to the winning organisation or consortium would be by the number of jobs achieved.
This week sees the launch of the Learning Disability Alliance England. For us in Scotland, despite all the recent work over the referendum there are many concerns that we share with people in England – welfare reform, employment, the development of the economy and equality issues.
For example, the roll out of Universal Credit across the whole of the UK will see the end of Severe Disability Premium which helps people with learning disabilities live independently. Many people will be forced to make hard choices about rent, heating and food – all of which can cost more for people with disabilities, no matter which side of the border they live on.
We think that there will be many more things that are devolved that we can still cooperate on. Many people don’t realise that case law and precedent set in either Scotland or England usually applies subsequently in both. Legal rulings on equality law in England help us in Scotland while case law on assessment from Scotland helps make sure councils play fair in England.
Today more than ever austerity makes us all brothers and sisters. We hope that together we can really begin to change the way that people with learning disabilities are seen and listened to no matter where they live in the United Kingdom. Working together we are all stronger.
The number of people with substantial learning disabilities in England and Wales who are in paid employment has fallen.
While unemployment in Britain generally has been fallen, the Department of Health has suggested that the proportion of learning disabled people who were in paid employment fell from 7% in 2012-13 to 6.8% in 2013-14.
This is probably caused by cuts in the supported employment programmes which help people get into work.
Figures for Scotland from ESAY suggest paid employment in Scotland is less at only 6.2% (not including those training for employment)
If you want to know more about what the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland does then have a look at our annual review 2014.
The Annual General Meeting of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland will be held on Tuesday November 25th from 11 am to 1 pm in the main office of KEY Community Supports :
70 Renton Street
Glasgow G4 0HT
This is a short walk from both Queen Street Station and Buchanan Street Bus Station and just yards from the M8 motorway for those who are driving.
We will be having a special presentation on Supported Employment this year by Catherine Hurrell from VIAS